The City gave Hardy Underwriting a slap last week. Analysts lauded its virtues last year, but showed how fickle they can be when Hardy admitted it had missed its earning targets last week. Its shares tumbled more than 9% after worse-than-expected losses from hurricanes and missed targets in its financial institutions business. Hardy chief executive Barbara Merry said the statement was a fiduciary move to offer clarity after four brokers' notes began circulating in the City. She said: "The range for our profits went from a high of £15.8m to a low of £6.8m. We thought it best to clarify to our investors the true figure." The company reported pre-tax profit of £8m, down from £14.4m in 2003 and almost 25% below the £10.6m forecast by its own broker. Shares in the company fell 20p to 198p on the announcement and have yet to return northward. Merry admitted that the financial institutions business had suffered from the "constraints we put on the book" by not offering the whole package brokers were used to. She also blamed one-year accounting: "We would not have disclosed the loss of a start-up business like financial institutions so soon under the old three-year accounting method."