Halifax Group made pre-tax profits of £1.9bn in 2000, up by 8% on the year before, helped by strong insurance results.

Insurance income increased by £16m to £242m and delivered a 10% growth in pre-tax profits to £176m.

The overall number of insurance policies increased by 5% in the year to £2.9m.

Motor insurance saw particular growth, with a 55% increase in policies to 204,000.

Repayment insurance policy numbers rose by 10% to 956,000, with the most notable rise being

in credit card repayment cover, where the number of policies rose by 37%.

During 2001, motor insurance business will transfer to Esure. All repayment insurance will transfer to the newly launched Halifax Insurance Ireland (HII).

The first new product from HII, an integrated cover against death, critical illness, accident, sickness and unemployment – The Total Mortgage Protection Plan – will be launched next month.

Halifax's direct household insurance product was launched at the end of 1999 and had 29,000 policyholders by the end of 2000.

Pretax profits from all diversified business, including insurance, rose by 22% to £748m, which represents 40% of total profits.

The company said it was on course to achieve its target of half of its profits coming from diversified business in 2001.