Nib Holdings' New Zealand unit boosted first-half profit as the health insurer paid out fewer claims than a year earlier and had a smaller premium payback bill on its product which reimburses policyholders the difference between premiums received and claims paid.

Underlying operating earnings rose to A$13.1 million ($14m) in the six months ended December 31 from A$10.9m a year earlier, the Sydney-based insurer said.

Revenue shrank 2.5 per cent to A$97.5m due to foreign exchange movements but was up 1.2 per cent in Kiwi dollar terms as new customer lines made up for the loss of a corporate customer. Claims costs dropped 10 per cent to A$58m on fewer claims and a lower premium payback liability.

"We've made good progress this year in expanding our direct-to-consumer segment as well as our industry-leading white-label capability, recently welcoming Stuff to our stable of partners such as the New Zealand Automobile Association," said NZ chief executive Rob Henin.


"Our performance first half reflects the significant investment we are making in growth opportunities while continuing our focus on delivering value to our customers and achieving impressive operational efficiencies."

Nib's group net profit slipped 0.3 per cent to A$70.9m on an 8.9 per cent gain in revenue to A$8.9 billion, as one-off acquisition costs weighed on the bottom line. The board declared an interim dividend of A9c per share.

The New Zealand division is the Australian insurer's smallest, accounting for 101,151 policyholders, or 12 per cent of the group's 816,676 policyholders. That compares to 106,460, or 14 per cent of 751,629 policyholders a year earlier.