, one of the nation's largest insurance companies, made a shelf filing with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

to sell up to $775 million in debt and equities.

The Seattle-based insurer reiterated that it plans to use the proceeds from the shelf offering to fund general corporate purposes, such as debt repayment and the operation of its subsidiaries. A shelf offering enables a company to comply with registration requirements up to two years prior to a public offering of shares. With the registration on the shelf, the company can go to market with those shares as conditions become favourable with little administrative preparation.

In November, the company priced its previously announced public offering of 9.1 million shares of common stock at $33 per share.

Safeco is expected to post a fourth-quarter net profit of 55 cents a share, according to a survey of Wall Street analysts conducted by Thomson Financial/First Call. That would be a marked improvement from the 13 cents a share it earned in the year-ago quarter. For fiscal 2002, analysts are projecting earnings of $1.86 a share. The earnings release is scheduled for Jan. 27, 2003.

The company's shares closed down 59 cents, or 1.7%, to , at $34.67 on Nasdaq. Heading into today's session, the stock was up 34% since hitting a 52-week low of $24.99 in late July.