Deal rumoured to around $2bn mark

QBE Insurance is expected to announce shortly it has bought California-based specialist Balboa Insurance Group, The Australian reports.

The rumoured $2bn deal is designed to take a major slice of the "distressed sale" property business in the US.

The insurer had its shares placed in a trading halt yesterday, citing "market speculation on various matters" following an unconfirmed wire service report that the Balboa deal was imminent.

A release detailing the company's 2010 results is expected before markets re-open in Sydney on 4 February.

Company secretary Duncan Ramsay watered down the Balboa rumour somewhat by saying QBE would discuss "preliminary 2010 results, recent catastrophes, acquisition activity, 2011 comprehensive worldwide reinsurance protections and financial targets".