TORONTO _ Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. says it lost nearly US$1.3 billion in the first quarter because of the COVID-19 pandemic, about US$100 million less than it forecast about two weeks ago.

The Toronto-based holding company, which reports in U.S. dollars, says the loss equalled $47.38 per diluted share, compared with a profit of $26.98 per share of $769.2 million a year earlier.

The book value adjusted for the $10 per common share dividend paid in the first quarter decreased 11.1 per cent to $422.03.

Chief executive Prem Watsa says that despite the unprecedented turbulence its insurance companies continued to have strong underwriting performance in the quarter.

Operating income of the insurance and reinsurance operations decreased modestly to $225.6 million from $246.7 million.

Net premiums written by the insurance and reinsurance operations increased by 10.1 per cent to $3.7 billion from $3.36 billion.

Fairfax says it had impairment losses of $181.1 million related to its investments in Quess, Resolute Forest Products and Astarta.

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