MAPFRE SA, Spain’s biggest insurer, said first-quarter earnings fell 17 percent as the euro’s strength limited growth in premiums and winter storm claims weighed on profit in its home market.

Net income fell to 219 million euros ($304 million) from 264.3 million euros in the same period a year earlier, the Madrid-based company said in a filing to regulators today. The shares fell 1.6 percent to 2.99 euros by 11:48 a.m. in Madrid.

MAPFRE is betting on developing markets such as Brazil to cushion the impact of profit declines in its Iberian division, which contributes 43 percent of earnings. Earnings from Brazil jumped 31 percent to 151 million euros, while earnings from southern Latin America, a separate unit, declined 43 percent.

Total premiums rose 1 percent to 5.96 billion euros from 5.9 billion euros a year earlier, MAPFRE said, limited by the euro’s strength against major currencies. In constant currency terms, premiums would have risen an annual 10 percent. The euro averaged about $1.37 in the first quarter, up from about $1.32 in the first three months of 2013.

Pre-tax profit from Iberia fell 17 percent to 176.6 million euros, even as premiums rose 7.8 percent in Spain to 2.63 billion euros, the company said.

The result reflected higher costs for storm damage claims, First Vice-Chairman Esteban Tejera said on a webcast for reporters. “Weather conditions for storms in the north of Spain have been exceptionally harsh,” he said.

Earnings in the first quarter of 2013 were inflated by items including the sale of a building in Istanbul, Tejera said.