Towergate Underwriting remains confident of surpassing £200 million in premium income, despite failing to reach the figure by January 1, the original target.

The group confirmed it was in negotiation with four brokers, one of which was nearing completion. If successful, the deal would increase the company's premium income above £200m.

Last August, chief executive Peter Cullum predicted that premium income would double to £200m by 2000, but a number of takeovers were scrapped. The virtual insurer currently has a premium income of £135m.

Towergate was launched in 1997 and has blazed an acquisition trail with the backing of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

It deals predominantly in niche markets, and provides marketing, information technology and finance, while allowing the broker to retain its brand identity.

Towergate's management originally worked as underwriters for Economic Insurance, staging a management buyout in 1993, before selling to Hiscox in 1996.