Backers of Lloyd's syndicates were thrown a lifeline to help them avoid a liquidity crunch.

The market is to allow up to 5% of a syndicate's capacity on 2002 to be used to meet losses or cash calls on 2000 or other years.

The rule, announced last week, will ease the plight of Names and corporate backers facing demands for cash to cover losses in 2000, when the market was at the bottom of its pricing cycle.

Most backers will have profits from 2002, when Lloyd's made a profit of £1.48bn. Its 2000 result was a loss of £2.3bn.

Lloyd's specialist accountant Neil Coulson, a partner at Littlejohn Frazer, said: "Rather than having to introduce new cash to meet the liquidity part of the solvency requirements, they can take some of the profits that are building up on 2002 and effectively earmark them for 2000.

"The change could save some backers from having to sell equities into a low market.

"It might prevent one or two involvencies at the margins, but the biggest impact will be that some people won't be forced into liquidating shares at a less than ideal time."

It could also help backers maintain or increase their investment in new underwriting.

It also suggests that Lloyd's may be moving towards giving investors greater flexibility in managing their money.

Lloyd's traditional accounting prevents the removal of money before three years have elapsed. These rules will be replaced by annual accounting in 2005.