Heavy losses from its Lloyd's syndicate 33 have contributed to a £1.3m slump in pre-tax profits for insurance group Hiscox.

For the six months to June 30, the company made a profit of just £100,000, compared to £1.4m in the same period in 1999.

Chairman Robert Hiscox said: “Syndicate 33 had two very difficult years in 1998 and 1999.”

Worst hit were the syndicate's marine hull and cargo, off-shore energy and political risks. But Hiscox said 33 was recovering after unprofitable marine business had been eradicated.

Overall, Hiscox's results were positive. Gross written premium rose by 16% to £215.9m, pushing the group towards critical mass and better expense ratios.

The biggest rise in the group's premium income came from its overseas operations with an increase of 40% to £21.3m.