"It's business as usual," said Iron Trades chief executive Robert Hardy this week, following his group's £175 million pre-Christmas acquisition by the Australian insurance company QBE.

Hardy, who remains in control of the former mutual general insurer, said brokers and other insurers and re-insurers have reacted positively to the sale.

"For brokers, it's good that there's been industry consolidation but no reduction in providers."

And he added that staff reaction has been excellent. "Staff have had to live with a lot of uncertainty and press speculation for some time now – so the fact that that's over, and that our new parent is QBE, counts as a real result."

QBE International is a subsidiary of QBE Insurance Group, which is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange and capitalised at £1 billion. It is rated A+ by Standard & Poor's, and QBE International is rated A+ by S&P's and A (Excellent) by AM Best.

The company has grown quickly in the past 10 years, and now does 40% of its business in Europe.

Holdings, the parent company of Iron Trades, is an authorised insurance company in run-off, wholly owned by the Iron Trades Employers' Insurance Association, a mutual company established in 1898 and limited by guarantee. Holdings had limited capital to support Iron Trades' development.

Hardy, who appointed the merchant bank DLJ to find a buyer last year, commented: "We could have continued as we were. But if we wanted to prosper, big decisions had to be taken. With the strength of QBE behind us, we can enhance our position in the market place. QBE provides Iron Trades with the security of a strong parent, and the breadth of operation to enable it to develop profitability in the future."

Frank O'Halloran, chief executive of the QBE Group, said: "QBE's main focus will be to develop Iron Trades' profitable insurance products, of which employer's liability is significant in the UK."