Fortis Insurance (UK) saw its profits jump 35% in 2003 as the insurer lessened its dependence on motor.

Overall, its gross written premium (GWP) increased 10%, from £497m in 2002 to £546m. Profit before tax jumped from £32.5m to £43.9m.

But the company's combined ratio (excluding investment income) increased marginally to 99.6%, up from 99% in 2002. The combined operating ratio, including investment income, was also up at 91.9%, from 91.4% in 2002.

The percentage of total GWP accounted for by the motor book fell from 72% to 68% this year. Chief executive Barry Smith said that while the company was pursuing a strategy of diversification, motor remained an important business. "It has been a very profitable product for us for many years," Smith said.

The company's other core product lines: household, travel, small commercial and self-employed business each increased their share of the business' total GWP by 1% in 2003.

Smith said that a key focus for Fortis was to replicate the growth in its motor book in household. Household GWP grew 15% to £97m in 2003.

Growing its small commercial and self-employed businesses books will also be a focus in 2004. Smith said: "Principally, we'll still be a personal lines insurer but you can expect to see this part of commercial grow". These books of business have more than doubled GWP from £12m in 2000 to £40m this year.

Fortis Insurance Internat-ional chief executive Jozef De Mey affirmed his support for the UK operation, describing it as a "core" business.

"Within Fortis it has rather a unique business model, a profitable business model. It's certainly our view, our vision, our goal to develop that," he said.

As a group, Fortis Insurance International achieved a net operating profit of €996m (£676m) in 2003, up from a loss of €616 (£418m) in 2002.