Zurich Financial Services has shrugged off the impact of US hurricane claims, to report a record operating performance for the first nine months of 2005.

Zurich reported a net income $2.3 billion, an increase of 21%. The company said that strong performance across all of its business segments helped the company to mitigate the $1.1 billion in losses caused by recent natural catastrophes.

James Schiro, chief executive officer of Zurich, said: The underlying strength of our businesses came through again. Our return on equity was 14.9%, which is in excess of our target rate and places us in the top range of our industry. This reflects our commitment to operational excellence and ability to build upon our proven financial strength.

Based on our continuous operational improvements, I am confident that we are well-positioned for sustainable profitable growth in the future.

The group also said it planned to continue increasing the efficiency of its distribution network and was fully expecting the policy to produce gains of around $1 billion in the next two years, reaching a target of $1.5 billion by 2007.