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SYDNEY, Jan 21 AAP

January 21 2013, 1:12PM

Hundreds of jobs are under threat at global insurer QBE as it prepares to finalise a massive cost cutting plan.

The insurance giant is reportedly considering axing 700 jobs from its Australian workforce as it seeks to slash costs.

QBE on Monday refused to confirm how many jobs could go, but noted that it had flagged in August that it was preparing to reduce costs by $US200 million ($A191.27 million).

"Any changes resulting from a review of our operations will be predominantly managed through a combination of natural staff turnover and staff redeployment," a spokeswoman said.

QBE will provide more details about its cost cuts when it reports its full year profit result on February 26.

It is understood to have begun cutting jobs in 2012, with more to come this year, The Australian Financial Review reported.

At least 700 jobs could go from QBE's Australian division, which employs about 4,300 workers, the paper said.

It is believed that if job cuts are made they would be in areas where there is a duplication of roles.

QBE, which employs 16,000 people globally, has undertaken a raft of takeovers and mergers in recent years but not always removed duplicate roles.

The Finance Sector Union branded the job cuts as ill-timed, given Australia was in the middle of bushfire season.

The union's national assistant secretary Geoff Derrick said insurance workers shouldn't have to be worrying about their jobs while trying to helping families affected by the fires.

He urged QBE to clarify how many jobs faced the axe and talk to workers about the company's plans.

"Let's engage in a genuine and transparent process here, rather than workers learning their fate via the media," he said.

QBE downgraded its full year earnings forecasts for calendar 2012 last November after saying losses from superstorm Sandy in the United States could be between $US350 million and $US450 million.

It expects to report a net profit of more than $US1 billion for the year.

Shares in QBE were 30 cents, or 2.5 per cent, higher at $12.05 at 1258 AEDT.