German insurance giant Allianz said it posted a 17% decline in net profit in the third quarter as a spate of natural catastrophes increased claims and weighed on earnings. 

Allianz also provided a slightly less rosy outlook for its full year earnings, and it announced a €2 billion share buy-back programme. 

"Third quarter results were robust, given the massive natural catastrophe events that impacted our property and casualty segment," the company's chief executive Oliver Baete said. 

Quarterly profit of €1.6 billion was in line with expectations but down from €1.9 billion a year ago. 

For the full year, Allianz forecast operating profit in the "upper half" of its target range of between €10.3 billion and €11.3 billion.

That is a slight downgrade from its earlier guidance of "near the upper end" of that range. 

A series of hurricanes as well earthquakes have rocked the insurance industry after years of muted losses.

The disasters have compounded pressure from low prices caused by fierce competition and low interest rates that have eroded profit. 

Insured losses from three big hurricanes in North America this year have cost the industry around $100 billion, German reinsurance giant Munich Re said earlier today. 

Damage from storms Harvey, Irma and Maria of that magnitude would exceed industry-wide losses of about $74 billion caused by Katrina, the hurricane that hit New Orleans in 2005. 

In a sign of the catastrophes' toll on profit, Allianz said its combined ratio, a closely-watched measure of expenses to premium income, rose to 96.9% from 93.5% for its property and casualty division. 

Allianz's asset management business, which includes bond fund manager PIMCO, showed signs of strength, with third-party assets under management rising by €7 billion to €1.4 trillion at the end of the third quarter compared the end of the second quarter. 

But lower performance fees dragged on operating profit at the unit.