Cox pulled off a £4.5m deal to double its number of distribution outlets and plans to buy more brokers.

The insurer bought Bennetts UK in a cash and shares deal that gives it 20 new broking branches and a head office on top of its existing 21 insure-shop network.

The deal creates the UK's sixth largest high street broking chain.

The acquisition will produce a combined policyholder count of 117,000 with a joint gross written premium of at least £44m.

It takes Cox into the south of England and the M4 corridor for the first time.

Nick Potts, managing director of Cox's broking business, said the company was "close to completion" on six smaller acquisitions.

Of these, three could complete within weeks. In addition, a "largish number" were under negotiation.

Potts said. "We have nothing like nationwide coverage, but Bennetts' gives us the first step to achieving it."

Cox had a target of building its distribution to become a network of more than 100 branches in the next few years.

Cox chief executive Neil Utley said Bennetts fitted Cox's split of about 80/20 between motor and household business.

Bennetts also has some commercial vehicle business.