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SYDNEY, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Australia's No. 1 insurer by premium income, QBE Insurance Group Ltd, on Monday posted a 1 percent rise in full-year cash profit, beating expectations, as it lifted prices and managed claims better.
Cash profit after tax increased to $898 million in the 12 months to Dec. 31 compared with $893 million a year ago, and a $769 million forecast of 13 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Adjusted for currency changes, cash profit was 12 percent higher than a year ago.
The insurer, which generates almost three-quarters of its premiums abroad, lifted its final dividend by 10 percent to A$0.33 ($0.2531) a share, 50 percent franked.
QBE also announced an on-market share buyback of up to $1 billion over three years, targeting no more than $333 million in any one calendar year, to return surplus cash to investors. ($1 = 1.3038 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Stephen Coates and Alan Crosby)