Cox Insurance has pulled out of high net worth (HNW) as part of its strategy to concentrate on five commercial classes of insurance as well as personal lines.

The move was announced as the insurer posted pre-tax losses of £6.4m for the year ending December 31, 2000, compared with a profit of £15.1m the year before.

Its marine business unit was closed in September last year and a number of other lines of business were eliminated or realigned, including Cox Power, its non-nuclear power business, where the book has been reduced by 70% for 2001.

Cox has now entered into an agreement with Albion for the insurer to invite renewal of Cox's HNW book.

Albion will begin taking over Cox's £7m HNW business from May, with the transition expected to take a year.

Chairman Michael Dawson said the money involved in the deal had been "modest".

Cox's figures include a one-off charge of £17.2m to cover exceptional items and the loss on discontinued business. Its office in Chipping Norton will close as a result of the deal and the 28 staff there redeployed throughout the company.

Dawson said Cox intended to concentrate on the standard and mid net worth market, where it is a significant player. He forecast that Cox's reorganisation was likely to be followed by other firms rationalising their business strategies.

"The market has been tough and we think many other businesses will have to look to their areas of strength and go through their own restructuring," he said.

Cox's commercial business is now focused on five areas: property and casualty, reinsurance, power, aviation and political risks. In personal lines, it has launched and

Dawson said he did not anticipate the need for any further reorganisation.

"We feel we're in pretty good shape," he said.