Swiss Re chief to retire early in 2012

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The chief executive of Swiss reinsurance giant Swiss Re, Stefan Lippe, will take early retirement next year after almost 30 years with the group, the firm said on Monday.

Lippe, 56, stabilised the company after recent tough trading conditions and news of his departure sparked a fall in the share price.

The board "very much regrets" the decision, chairman Walter Kielholz said in a statement hailing Lippe's tenure as chief executive.

"Since becoming CEO in 2009 he has led Swiss Re through challenging times, during which we were able to turn around the company," he said.

"We are initiating the process to select a successor and will ensure a smooth transition."

The announcement was followed by a slide in the share price which fell 2.30 percent in morning trade.

The company gave no reason for Lippe's early departure but Kielholz noted that "it was the right time to inform the board" of his decision.

Under Lippe's leadership, Swiss Re restored its capital base, regained its AA- Standard & Poor's rating and repaid borrowings from Berkshire Hathaway, the firm said.

Analysts said the announcement could cause uncertainty but the group had sufficient time to allow for an easy transition.

"The announcement doesn't surprise us but comes earlier than expected," wrote analysts with the Vontobel private banking group.

© 2011 AFP

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