Lloyd's insurer BRIT this week revealed a massive increase in losses, up from £9.5m in March 1999 up to £27.4m to December 1999.

Chairman Jo Welman blamed the poor state of the market for the projected losses, but remains upbeat for the coming years. He said: "We would expect to generate significant underwriting returns from 2001.

"We are increasingly confident that the insurance cycle has turned and that returns to shareholders will improve significantly over the next few years. However we are aware that the insurance sector is competing for institutional capital with companies with more predictable earnings."

BRIT anticipates a 32% increase in premium income for 2000.

Chief executive Neil Eckert said BRIT has experienced rate increases of at least 20% in motor with significant hikes in reinsurance rates.

The group changed its reporting structure to bring it into line with other integrated Lloyd's vehicles.

BRIT also reduced its final dividend to shareholders from 3.5p per share down to 2.0p per share.