Cox Insurance Holdings has sold its £30m marine underwriting book of business to Lloyd's managing agency Euclidian Underwriting for an undisclosed sum.

Richard Brewster, Cox finance director, said it decided on the sale after losses had reduced its premium income from £80m to £30m since 1998.

He said: “Market rates in the marine sector have not been turning and we have decided to withdraw from the sector and transfer the business to Euclidian.”

James Truscott, chief executive of Euclidian, said it intended to expand its marine box at Lloyd's and employ a number of staff from Cox's former marine team. He expects the business to grow to a premium income of £140m in 2001.

Cox also suffered a number of large claims for failed power station turbines in its commercial power portfolio.

These commercial losses helped to almost halve Cox's interim operating profits to £4.8m for the six months of 2000, compared to £9.3m last year. Overall, Cox made a pre-tax loss of £0.6m.

Cox's retail business, which distributes mainly motor insurance, has increased its gross written premiums by 66%.

The insurer has invested in internet distribution facilities, including, its own branded site and has signed an exclusive underwriting deal with Egg. These have generated a total premium income of £5m to date.

Its advertising campaign for has increased the number of quotes from 10,000 to 50,000 per week.

Cox is planning to offer a package of processing and underwriting services to its 6,000 partner brokers on a phased basis.