by Jason Woolfe

The week's winners
Chaucer up 4.9%
Hardy up 3.7%

The week's losers
Goshawk down 22.8%
Benfield down 8.9%
Zurich down 8.9%

Fortis has set tongues wagging.

Its plans to float off its US business was taken as a clear sign that the group is beautifying itself in an attempt to attract a merger partner.

At first sight, the US side of things was a valuable part of the Belgian-Dutch group.

Last year's operating profits of ¤359m was a record, and the group had spent $2.6bn buying American Bankers Insurance to boost its US presence as recently as 1999.

One question now is over potential merger partners.

The Spanish Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria is known to be fond of bancassurance. Another question is if a partner were to woo Fortis, how would it view the UK operation?

Some say Fortis Insurance Ltd, with its heavy involvement in weakening broker-only motor business, would be seen as not bringing much to the party.

Could it too, like the US operation, find itself separating from its parent?

Elsewhere, there was news both good and bad for Swiss Re.

Talking about the row, sorry, the arbitration, between Swiss Re and Lloyd's, Standard & Poor's analyst Stephen Searby said he expected it to go in Lloyd's favour.

Meanwhile in the US, an appeal court upheld a ruling that units of Royal & SunAlliance, St Paul and Hartford would have to pay out just once on their WTC exposures. They were bound by documentation from Willis defining the tragedy as one event, not two.