Improved underwriting helped Zurich Insurance Group increase its operating profit by 12% year on year to $2.4bn in the first half of 2018. Net profit after tax for the business increased by 19% on the prior year's first six months to $1.8bn. As the firm explained, improved underwriting spurred the increases, while reduced expenses within its property and casualty offerings and portfolio growth also supported the results. “I’m extremely pleased with our continued progress. Our businesses are showing great resilience and improved profitability despite challenging market conditions,” said Mario Greco, Zurich's group chief executive. He added: “At the midpoint of our three-year plan, we stand well on track to achieve all indicated targets by the end of 2019. And we are progressing fast in the implementation of the strategy we launched in November 2016.” Zurich's first half 2018 property and casualty gross premiums written and policy fees increased by 3% year on year to $18.5bn, while the operating profit for this part of its business reached $1.14bn, up 11% on the same period in 2017. A combined ratio of 97.5% for the P&C business marked an improvement of two percentage points compared with the first half of 2017. As Zurich explained, increases in operating profit from its Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and North American operations were offset somewhat by decreases in Latin America and Asia Pacific. "The stronger performance in the first half of the year reflects an improved underwriting performance," the insurance giant explained, adding: "The strong result reflects a combination of improved underlying performance, lower expenses as a result of the group's cost reductions and the absence of charges related to the change in the Ogden discount rate in the UK in 2017." The first half of 2018 saw the company strengthen its international position with a series of acquisitions such as the acquisition of QBE’s Latin American business. In July, Zurich also announced the acquisition of Blue Insurance in Europe. “In the first six months of this year, we strengthened market share in Latin America and Australia and established a powerful global platform in the highly dynamic and promising travel assistance business," said Greco. "We bolstered our innovation capabilities through technology platforms like Zurich Insurance Mobile Solutions and launched a series of new digital solutions for customers," Greco added.