Last week's announcement that NIG Skandia is up for sale was not intended to be made public until a new owner emerged.

But the company was forced on the defensive when its Swedish parent Skandia let slip in a newspaper interview that it wanted to pull out of the UK general insurance market and was seeking a buyer for NIG.

Senior UK staff have known for some time of Skandia's intentions and have been actively seeking a new partner for the past few months. NIG Skandia's managing director John Carrier has been told he has until 2001 before Skandia pulls out.

He commented last week: “There is still some time to go...and with the UK market starting to show signs of improvement, there is no rush.

“It is not unusual for a company to change shareholders and NIG has been through this several times before. We are seeking a shareholder who has the same long-term objectives as the board and management of NIG Skandia.”

Brokers' fears of a direct seller acquiring the company are therefore unlikely to be realised.

NIG Skandia has been at pains to reassure brokers that it is only its parent company that is pulling out of UK general insurance. Its commitment to serving brokers – which has won it praise from the industry – is unaffected.