Your 60 second buyer’s guide to QBE Insurance Group Ltd

Short on time? Here’s what you need to know to get up to date with QBE Insurance Group Ltd (ASX:QBE) in 60 seconds (you might have to read quick!):

What the company does

QBE Insurance sells a range of insurance products to customers around the world.

If the company takes in more cash from insurance premiums than it pays out in claims and business operating costs it makes money (its ‘underwriting result’).

However half of QBE’s Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) actually come from conservatively investing policy holders’ funds as well as investors’ funds.

In 2015 the combined investment income was US$665 million compared to the insurance ‘underwriting result’ of US$629 million.

What’s good?

After a long and painful restructure QBE’s operations are looking lean, cost effective and profitable. The company has increased its exposure to “growth” investment assets which have been performing well.

Cash flow is expected to grow in 2016, while an increase to the dividend pay-out ratio from October this year should increase the cash return for investors.

What’s bad?

To get back on track QBE slashed poorly performing business units. This pushed revenues down by 9% in 2015 and the company admits it has limited organic growth options in its mature markets.

As a result insurance competition is cranking up in these markets which puts pressure on the price of insurance premiums and underwriting margins.

In addition, current low U.S. interest rates are looking less likely to rise in 2016, which means another year of subdued returns off the company’s conservative investment portfolio.

Should you buy?

QBE Insurance is steadily transforming from ugly duckling to sturdy feathered mallard. Yet with limited organic growth prospects in my view the company looks fairly priced at its current book value and market price; worth holding for the increasing dividend, but not necessarily a bargain.

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Motley Fool contributor Regan Pearson owns shares of QBE Insurance Group Ltd.. Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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