QBE Insurance Group

The final bill for Hurricane Sandy won’t be known for some time, but the industry is talking about US$20bn in total losses. QBE Insurance's best estimate, announced this morning, is that its share will be $350m-$450m, with a maximum possible loss of $600m. QBE expects the full year insurance profit margin will fall to 8%, from a previously expected 12%, due to Hurricane Sandy, the drought-impacted US crop business and other unrelated large individual claims. Net profit before amortisation should come in around $1bn for the year ended 31 December 2012, 30% higher than 2011 but still well below QBE’s long term potential. But it won't stop the final dividend from being slashed. The company pays out about 70% of its earnings as dividends and by our calculations it will need to cut the final dividend to 10 cents or less if it intends to stick to this payout ratio. The cut should only prove temporary, assuming profits rebound in 2013.

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