SVB Holdings' announced a pre-tax profit of £11.1m, for the first six months of 2003.

This was compared to a profit of £1.6m during the same period last year.

Gross written premiums (GWP) fell 26% to £236.2m, compared to £317.7m in the first half of 2002.

Earnings per share stood at 3.3p, compared to 0.5p.

SVB attributed the reduction in GWP to its withdrawal from some classes of business, in particular liability reinsurance.

SVB Holdings chief executive, Matthew Fosh, denied the insurer would further scale back its involvement in liability.

"Specialty lines are at our heart but we've still got an appetite for liability business," said Fosh.

"It's US liability reinsurance that got us into trouble - we're refocusing the business so that we're doing more UK liability".

The combined ratio for SVB's liability business stood at136.4%, compared to 114% in the first half of 2002.

The combined ratio for aviation and marine was 119%, compared to 96.8% in the same period last year.

The combined ratio across the group as a whole improved to 99.7%, compared to 106.5% in the first six months of 2002.

Fusion, the group's distribution business, reported GWP of £42.3m, compared to £20.5m for the first six months of 2002.

SVB Syndicates has announced plans, subject to Lloyd's approval, to increase its total managed capacity for 2004 to £502.4m. Total capacity for 2003 stands at £437.4m. SVB also announced the appointment of Oliver Corbett as group finance director. Formerly a managing director at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, Corbett replaces outgoing finance director Philip Whittaker.

Meanwhile, former group chief executive Rupert Villers has resigned as a director with immediate effect. Villers will remain as chairman and chief underwriting officer of SVB Syndicates until the end of the year.