Australia's biggest insurer QBE fell the most in 10 months after saying claims from the Sandy storm in the United States will push its insurance margin lower and dent full-year profit.
QBE's insurance profit margin will drop to about 8 per cent this year, down from an August forecast for better than 12 per cent, as losses from Sandy total US$350 million to $450m, the firm said.
Profit in the year to December 31 will be in excess of $1 billion, it added. The shares plunged 11 per cent in Sydney morning trading.
"QBE was always going to stand to lose the most of the Australian insurers from Hurricane Sandy given their large exposure in the US overall," said Ben Le Brun, a market analyst at OptionsXpress in Sydney. "I certainly expect that the fallout from Hurricane Sandy will eat into QBE's profitability."
Property-casualty insurers may face claims of as much as $20bn from Sandy, according to an estimate from the catastrophe risk modeller Eqecat.
QBE, meanwhile, is recovering from record payouts generated last year after earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, and Australia's costliest floods ever.
"It is frustrating to be reporting disappointing news at a time when the vast majority of our ongoing businesses are performing in line with, or better than, expectations," said John Neal, the chief executive of QBE.
The company, based in Sydney, plans to raise $500m and has received commitments for a subordinated convertible debt issue.
QBE lifted its allowance for risk and catastrophe claims to 12 per cent of net earned premium for the year, from 10.5 per cent earlier. This includes allowances for higher-than- expected claims related to drought losses in its US crop business; individual risk and catastrophe claims of about $600m, and an allowance for additional losses of $357m for this month and December.