Cox is pulling out of high net worth as part of its strategy to concentrate on five commercial classes of insurance as well as personal lines.

The latest 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 high net worth book.

Albion will begin taking over Cox's £7m worth of high net worth business from May, with the transition anticipated to take one 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. And its office in Chipping Norton will close as a result of the deal; the 28 staff there will be redeployed throughout the company.

Cox intends to concentrate on the standard and mid-net worth market where it is a significant, player Dawson said.

He forecast that Cox's reorganisation was likely to be followed by other companies 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 in 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.

“We are probably more encouraged by the market potential now than at any time over the past three years.”