Insurers Hiscox Group's operating profit is down by 56% from £5.4m in 1999 compared to £12.2m in 1998.

The poor results have been blamed on the December storms in Europe, which caused widespread damage in Paris and southern France, and political risk claims after major investment projects in Russia and Asia were cancelled.

Robert Hiscox chairman of Hiscox, which comprises both the Hiscox syndicate at Lloyd's 33 and the Hiscox Insurance Company, said: "Profits are down this year, but we are now in a period of exciting and sustainable development."

Hiscox Insurance Group is one of a trio of insurers behind ten new professional indemnity policies from virtual intermediary