Gross written premium rise 22% to $8,057m

Profits at QBE Insurance Group jumped 19% to $1,018m for the first half of the year ending 30 June 2009. The group said this had been achieved despite volatile markets and economic conditions arising from the global financial crisis.

Directors declared an increased interim dividend of 62 cents, up from 61 cents for the same period last year. The dividend payout is up 16% to $628 million due to the additional shares issued from the $2.1 billion raised in December 2008 and January 2009.

Meanwhile gross written premium was up 22% to $8,057 million and net earned premium was up 21% to $6,186 million.

The insurer said growth was assisted by the lower average Australian dollar compared with the same period last year, acquisitions made in 2008 and overall average premium rate increases of 4%.

The combined operating ratio was 89.3%. The combined operating ratio for the Americas was 86.6%, Australia 87.7%, Asia Pacific 89.0% and Europe 89.9%.

Mr Frank O’Halloran, QBE Group Chief Executive Officer, said: “The strong underwriting profits from our four insurance divisions, together with overall average premium rate increases of around 4% and the expectation of higher interest rates as economic conditions improve, give us confidence about the outlook for the insurance profit margin going forward. Our outlook is subject to the usual caveats, in particular, no material movement in the Australian dollar against overseas currencies and large individual risk and catastrophe claims not exceeding those experienced in recent years.”

He added: “Higher interest rates on our $24 billion of high quality, short duration cash and fixed interest investments will also benefit our capital adequacy. This, and our low debt levels and strong capital position, provide considerable flexibility to convert further bolt on acquisitions.”