QBE misses profit forecast

QBE Insurance's annual profit has grown by eight per cent, lower than previously forecast due to the impact of severe droughts and storms in the United States.

The global insurance company also said it would rationalise its business to save at least $US250 million ($A243.75 million) each year from the end of 2015.

But QBE chief executive John Neal offered no detail on how those savings would be achieved.

"I will provide more detail of our new strategic direction, the progress of the operational transformation program and our targeted cost savings as we progress through 2013," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

QBE made a net profit of $US761 million ($A741.97 million) in the year to December 31, up from $US704 million in the previous corresponding period.

It had forecast a net profit of more than $US820 million ($A799.49 million).

QBE took fewer catastrophe claims in 2012 than it did in 2011, but it suffered a $US464 million ($A452.40 million) cost from developments in prior year accident claims, Mr Neal said.

"It is disappointing that the benefit of significantly reduced catastrophe claims and a lower discount rate impact is not reflected in a materially improved 2012 underwriting result due largely to adverse prior accident year claims development," he said.

Mr Neal said QBE would implement a program to change from a regionally-focused multinational business to a fully-integrated global insurer.

That would involve "the creation of dedicated centres of excellence, to manage functions and processes which are currently replicated across the group and to improve productivity," the company said.

The program is aimed at creating annual savings of at least $US250 million ($A243.75 million) each year from the end of 2015.

Fairfax Media has reported QBE plans to set up a hub in the Philippines, where up to 3,000 employees will conduct roles currently carried out in Australia, Europe and north America.

No details of job cuts were given by QBE on Tuesday.

Mr Neal said QBE's premiums would continue to rise in 2013, by five per cent on average, due to recent catastrophe claims and low interest yields.

Those rises would occur most notably in Australia, New Zealand and north America, he said.

The company's net earned premium is forecast to grow by less than premium increases, due in part to the impact of past year claims.

QBE is targeting an underlying insurance profit margin of 11 per cent in 2013, which compares to eight per cent in 2012.

Mr Neal also said acquisitions were not high on the company's agenda.

QBE declared a fully-franked final dividend of 10 cents per share.

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