Blackmore Heath has signed a merger deal that marks the start of a campaign to create a £10m independent broker.

Folkestone-based Stenning Insurance Services Ltd has taken a 90% holding in the Kent company.

Stenning director Ian Gosling said: "We have a target to reach £10m of gross written premium by the end of the first quarter of 2005.

"We are on the acquisition trail - and that means anything from acquiring a portfolio, a business or even an individual."

Gosling said that Blackmore Heath founder Steve Best had sold his stake in the company, but would continue his work as managing director.

The combined operation generated premium income of about £6.5m split between about 45% commercial and 55% personal business.

Gosling said the company was in discussions about six potential acquisitions.

"We are looking to develop the business primarily in commercial lines, but we are quite happy to acquire a business where it has a good quality personal lines portfolio," he said.

A marketing initiative with AXA, targeting 1,000 warmed-up marketing leads, aimed to promote organic growth of commercial business, he said.

Both Blackmore Heath and Stenning would continue to trade under their existing names from their current locations and there would be no job losses, Gosling said.

Blackmore Heath recently opened a new headquarters in Sittingbourne.

Gosling joined in May last year when he took a 10% stake the company.