Swiss Life, the largest life insurer in Switzerland, has reported its best year of profits for five years, achieved mainly off the back of strong investment gains and aided by an increase in business and a refocus on life insurance products.

The Swiss Life Group increased its net profit by more than double from CHF233 million in the previous year to CHF624 million in 2004. Meanwhile, for the first time in the history of the company, premium volume exceeded CHF20 billion. The gross written premiums amounting to CHF20.3 billion represented a growth rate of 8%.

Gross premium income reached record levels due to significantly greater demand for pension products in France and Germany, recording premium growth in those two markets of 18% and 8%, respectively. Swiss Life also achieved premium growth of 8% in its domestic market, reversing the negative trend of the previous year.

Swiss Life additionally benefited from one-off gains of CHF164 million resulting from changes in the pensions system that allowed the company to release reserves for future payouts.

On the basis of the pleasing results, the company’s board of directors is to propose the issuing of a dividend of CHF4 per share, which is the first recommendation for a dividend payout in four years.

Commenting on the upturn in results Rolf Dorig, Swiss Life CEO, said: Swiss Life is gaining momentum. We made a substantial improvement in our results in 2004, while gaining market share and further reinforcing our financial strength.