Suncorp: We're not overexposed

Queensland's largest insurer, Suncorp Group, is not overexposed to the flood ravaged state, chief executive Patrick Snowball says.

He also said mitigating risks of changing environmental circumstances, including global warming and climate patterns such as La Nina, was a key challenge for insurers.

"We have substantial premiums across Queensland, but our exposure in Queensland is not disproportionate to the exposure we have across the whole of Australia," Snowball told ABC TV yesterday.

"Actually we have almost the same percentage of the Queensland market for household insurance as we do the rest of Australia."

Snowball brushed aside predictions that insurance premiums in Queensland would rise by at least 30 per cent, partly because of the cost of recent severe weather in the state.

But he did not rule out the possibility that they could increase to some degree.

"People come out with all sorts of numbers early on," he said.

Mr Snowball also indicated that re-insurers weren't going to be hit hard by flood-related claims in Queensland as many people in the state did not have flood insurance.

Suncorp last week advised the market that it expected its net claims cost arising from tropical cyclone Yasi would be capped at A$10 million ($13.17 million), with the rest being covered by re-insurers.

"If you actually look at the exposure of re-insurers to claims in North Queensland, actually it's not that great," Snowball said.

"But they're always going to be looking at risk.

"The re-insurance market is a global market, and the thing that actually drives premiums in that market is, do we have hurricanes in the United States every year?

"If this [extreme weather] becomes a year-in, year-out problem ... they're going to think that it's going to have to carry a premium."

Snowball also said Suncorp was on track for a 3 per cent margin increase by 2012 and brushed off suggestions the company could merge its banking business with Bank of Queensland (BoQ).

Analysts suggest that such a tie-up could produce A$800 million in value for the two parties and could involve Suncorp selling its bank to BoQ in return for a 52 per cent stake in the merged BoQ entity.

"Our bank has just had an upgrade in its rating to A+," Snowball said.

"It gets that A+ because it's part of a group.

"Other regional banks only have BBB ratings.

"So that bank is travelling well, and it's well bedded into the group."

- AAP

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