Capita, the outsourcing specialist, is poised to target the insurance sector this year after posting record operating profits of £53.1m in 2000, a 46% rise on the year before.

The FTSE-listed group acquired the entire share capital of Eastgate at the end of last October as part of its strategy to target the sector, and soon afterwards clinched a major deal to handle the home insurance claims of Abbey National.

Capita said it identified the potential of the insurance sector while holding a minority stake in Eastgate during the previous 18 months.

“First, the market opportunity for insurance outsourcing services was substantial; and secondly, the company required stronger managerial and financial resources to exploit the opportunity,” the chairman's statement said.

Capita provides services for 145 Lloyd's syndicates and 70 insurers, dealing with more than five million assistance calls and nearly one million household, motor and travel claims.

Pre-tax profits were up 41% to £51.2m over the year, and turnover grew 39% to £453m.