The week's winners

Wellington Underwriting up 16.6%
Atrium up 7.3%

The week's losers

Chaucer down 5.9%
Aviva down 5.5%

Unlike the stock market with its new year lull, the rumour mills never stop turning.

Whispers that some of the quoted Lloyd's operators could be thinking about merging have surfaced before, but in the current climate raise a host of interesting possibilities.

The likes of SVB, Chaucer and others could no doubt benefit from extra scale, and a higher profile on the market would open doors to finance that they would fall on their knees for now.

One market source said the idea was being considered at senior level.

It is easy to see that as the non-life sector gains credibility among mainstream investors, 2003 could be the ideal time to launch a merged Lloyd's operator, as profits rise and the hard market hits its stride.

Most analysts already favour non-life and Commerzbank, for example, is advising its clients to switch from reinsurers to direct insurers.

From the market's point of view, an enlarged Lloyd's vehicle could look like a promising bet.

Seen from within, the idea has depended on the support of big-name underwriters who tend to thrive when cosseted in small, bespoke operations.

One industry insider said: "In the best [Lloyd's operators] the underwriters are the key players and there would be no point in buying them if the leading underwriter walked out. But there are others now where the underwriter doesn't have that clout."

Now could be the time.