Hiscox has announced a huge rise in pre-tax profits for 2000, up to £3.5m from £112,000 in 1999, following a good return on bonds and equities and the sale of life funds.

But operating profits were down to £3m from £5.4m the previous year, because of increases in reserves.

In its preliminary results, the group announced a gross written premium of £384.7m, compared to £323.7m in 1999.

In its insurance division, premium income was up 30% to £127m and operating profit rose 75% to £5.5m.

Hiscox syndicate 33 at Lloyd's also achieved an overall rate increase of 24% over the year to March 2001.

Hiscox expanded by purchasing Chartwell's regional business in the UK and through distribution partnerships in Europe. Its Guernsey operation, Hiscox Insurance Company, grew 34% to £31.9m and its German and Dutch offices also made a small profit.

But its French division continued to suffer from the aftermath of the December 1999 storms.

“Conditions in Hiscox and the market are better than they have been for years,” said chairman Robert Hiscox.