Global insurer Liberty Mutual Holding Co. Inc. and its subsidiaries reported a 26 percent jump in net income for the three months ended March 31 due to higher premiums and lower catastrophe losses.

The company reported a profit of $459 million, up from $364 million for the first quarter last year. Revenue rose 6 percent or $500 million to $8.88 billion. Net premiums written rose $495 million or 6.5 percent to $8.08 billion.

The company’s catastrophe losses totaled $321 million in the latest period, down from a loss of $588 million in the first quarter of last year, one of the worst ever for catastrophe lossesfor the insurance industry.

“Our first quarter results highlight the progress we have made in terms of core profitability and continued growth,” said David H. Long, president and CEO of Liberty Mutual Insurance.

Long said the net income of $459 million reflected “an accelerating commercial lines price trend, excellent non-catastrophe personal lines results, and fewer international catastrophes.” In the first quarter, the company also acquired Russian insurer, KIT Insurance.

He said growth was strong in targeted areas, with increases of 12 percent internationally and 9 percent in domestic personal lines, while U.S. commercial lines contracted an acceptable 1 percent.

“These results, plus our acquisition of KIT Finance Insurance in Russia, have provided an encouraging start to the year,” said Long.

Including the impact of catastrophes and losses attributable to prior years, the company’s combined ratio for the first three months of 2012 decreased 1.5 points to 100.9 percent. The consolidated combined ratio before catastrophes and losses attributable to prior was 96.0 percent, a decrease of 0.9 points from the same period in 2011.

The Boston-based company is in a public relations battle with its hometown newspaper, The Boston Globe, which has been reporting that Ted Kelly, who retired last June as CEO but still serves as chairman,  was paid an average of $50 million annually for the past four years.

However, on Friday,Kelly told the Boston Globe the $50 million figure was inflated by his recent cashing in of performance incentives he earned for his work over near two decades with the company. He said his annual compensation was closer to $13 million to $15 million, the newspaper reported. “It’s an accounting issue,’’ Kelly told the Globe.

As a mutual company owned by its policyholders, Liberty Mutual does not have publicly traded stock but voluntarily reports its quarterly results.

Liberty Mutual Holding Co. is the parent corporation of the Liberty Mutual Insurance group, a global insurer and third largest property/casualty insurer in the U.S. based on 2011 direct written premium. As of Dec. 31, 2011, the firm had $117.131 billion in consolidated assets, $99.267 billion in consolidated liabilities, and $34.671 billion in annual consolidated revenue.