Independent Insurance has announced a raft of internet ventures in its 1999 results.

The insurer posted a 25% increase in operating profits to £69.8m for 1999 compared to £55.8m the year before. But the group also said it is preparing to plough more than £7m into 26 internet site addresses it has registered.

Its key projects are broker-led, added value services aimed at the profitable business-to-business sector.

The first of these, to be launched in April, is a risk management portal, – a password protected site providing access to claims and policy advice.

A broker portal,, goes live in the last quarter of 2000 and will focus on Independent's core 200 brokers who account for more than 90% of its business.

These services are in addition to Independent's internet insurance site for students – This has already received one million hits since its launch last October.

Michael Bright, chief executive of Independent, said personal lines was the only underwriting sector to suffer a loss in 1999 of £6m. However he said gross earned premium in the motor account grew by 18% to £21m assisted by the insurer obtaining more non-standard business.

He attributed its overall 85% renewal rate in January and February 2000 to its move of writing policies lasting more than a year.

On the commercial side, Bright said Independent had suffered only one large property damage claim, a £1.7m fire loss on a West Midlands factory.

Bright said the market was at last beginning to harden, as he had predicted, but added this growth had not emerged until the last quarter of 1999. The company has recruited 50 graduate and professional staff to take advantage of these improving market conditions.

Independent's majority-owned loss adjusting company Property & Casualty Services also increased its turnover to £13.5m (£10.2m 1998) boosted by its new markets in France and Ireland. Bright said PCS was on the brink of being awarded a contract by another insurer.