Is Suncorp Group Ltd a superior bet to QBE Insurance Group Ltd?

Whilst the S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) has a number of insurance shares for investors to choose from, at this point in time I would say that Suncorp Group Ltd (ASX: SUN) is the best value of them all.

Its shares certainly have a lot going for them at the moment as far as I’m concerned. Changing hands at just 14x trailing earnings they are trading well below the market’s average earnings multiple of 17. I believe this makes them good value currently and a great option for investors looking for exposure to the insurance industry.

Although trading at 14x trailing earnings may not be as cheap as QBE Insurance Group Ltd (ASX: QBE) shares are currently, let’s not forget that QBE Insurance has significant exposure to the United Kingdom and Europe.

Approximately 29% of QBE Insurance’s premiums are written in the United Kingdom and Europe and slowing economic growth in the region and changes to European Union passporting rules could prove to be a big headache for the company in the next couple of years.

It’s no surprise then that QBE Insurance shares have dropped over 12% since the Brexit vote. Unfortunately though they are currently lacking a catalyst to take them higher in my opinion. So as cheap as its shares may appear on paper I would keep a safe distance from them for now and turn my attention to Suncorp.

As well as appearing to be good value, at the current share price Suncorp shares are also providing a monster dividend. In FY 2017 the market is expecting an estimated fully franked 6% dividend, according to CommSec. This puts it up there alongside many of the high-yield banking shares and would make it a very attractive addition to most balanced portfolios.

The good news for income investors is that I believe the company can grow its dividend over the next few years also. Thanks to changes to its operating model and the new intervention strategy it is undertaking in order to restore performance, I feel Suncorp is positioning itself to deliver cost efficiencies and enhance the company’s profitability in the future.

All in all, I feel confident that Suncorp is the best value investment in the Australian insurance industry today. But I’ll leave you with a quick word of warning. Before making an investment it is worth remembering that insurers operate in an unpredictable industry, with a number of factors outside their control directly impacting their profitability. For this reason it may not be a suitable investment for those with a low tolerance for risk in my opinion.

Before you do go out and buy Suncorp shares I would highly recommend you check to see if you own one of these three rotten ASX shares. Each could be doing more harm than good for your portfolio.

3 Rotten Shares to Sell, and 1 to Buy Today

After a double-digit rally for the ASX since 2016 lows, investors should be on high alert. You'll find a full rundown below of 3 shares we think you should avoid today plus one top pick worth buying, even if the market turns south and the RBA keeps rates at an "emergency low." Simply click here to uncover these stocks.

Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro has no position in any stocks mentioned. 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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