MILAN, July 29 (Reuters) - Italy's top insurer Assicurazioni Generali beat market expectations on Friday with a 10.5 percent drop in first-half operating profit as it wrestled with ultra-low interest rates and tough stock markets.
Generali, Europe's No.3 insurer, said in a statement first-half earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) came in at 2.49 billion euros ($2.76 billion), above a Thomson Reuters analyst forecast of 2.33 billion euros.
"Despite the difficult environment and highly volatile financial markets, the group expects to improve shareholders' return in 2016 as indicated in the business plan," it said.
Premiums in the period totalled 37 billion euros, falling 2 percent due to weakness in the life segment.
The economic solvency ratio, a closely watched measure of financial strength calculated using internal models based on Solvency II principles, stood at 188 percent at the end of June, unchanged from three months earlier and down from 202 percent at the end of 2015. ($1 = 0.9029 euros) (Reporting by Valentina Za and Gianluca Semeraro, editing by Agnieszka Flak)