Australian insurer QBE has acquired the specialist marine insurer, British Marine for around £115m.

The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals with completion expected to be before the year end.

British Marine dates back to 1876 and provides protection and indemnity liability, and hull and machinery insurance to shipowners.

It insures over 8,000 small ships in more than 80 countries, through a network of over 250 brokers and has gross written premium of $130m (£73.6m).

British Marine, the London-based subsidiary of Bermuda insurer, British Marine Holdings, will retain its existing brand and management team and will continue to operate as a standalone business unit within QBE.

British Marine reported a record profit of $ 27.1m (£15.4m), for the year ended February 2005, an 18% increase on the previous year.

Robert Johnston, managing director of British Marine Managers, said: "From the moment that discussions started, QBE Group made it clear that it was committed to the British Marine franchise. Our shipowners can now look forward knowing that the future of British Marine is secure within the QBE stable."