Company hopes to recover property and 11 September losses

SVB is throwing itself into writing long tail and specialty risks to recover the huge losses from its property book and the 11 September attacks.

The group was due to announce its 2001 results on Wednesday and expected to show a post-tax loss of just under £90m and a combined ratio of just under 140%.

A series of large losses in the property book came in addition to its World Trade Centre loss of about £30m.

Bad investments in equities added to SVB's difficulties.

Analysts predicted a huge slice of the losses would be attributed to the group's Lloyd's syndicate 1212.

Previously seen as a blue chip name, the syndicate slid "off the rails", group chief executive Rupert Villers said.

He blamed management and underwriting mistakes for the poor performance.

He denied SVB was playing a dangerous game of double or quits - and said it would be picking its risks carefully.

It has slashed back parts of its property book and the main account will be overseen by Kevin Pallett, chief executive of the group's Fusion operation that targets regional brokers.

Villers said its business in controversial directors' and officers' (D&O) was still profitable outside the US. The group has cut its D&O book by 75% since 1999, but will stay in the sector despite Villers predicting further general challenges.

"Post-Enron, there's a mood to get the fat cats," he said. "The environment will get even more difficult."

D&O cover sits alongside other specialty areas such as crime insurance, political risks, cover for financial institutions and professional indemnity in SVB's portfolio.

They were the "profit motor" of the business, bringing in 40% of premiums before last year.

Villers predicted the group would return to profit this year.

He ruled out going to the stock markets to raise capital in the near future and said SVB's rates had increased even more in the first quarter of this year than they had at the end of last year in four out of five business segments.