UK companies on average bought almost £58m in liability limits last year, Marsh has reported.

The broker released an advisory letter on liability limits, after surveying 3,500 companies worldwide.

Pharmaceutical and chemical companies were the largest buyers of liability cover in the UK, averaging limits of more than £100m.

Transport companies ranked second, with average limits of £92m.

A second letter by Marsh on optimum risk financing said many companies could not get the level of security they required from the conventional insurance market.

"For example, Swiss Re has withdrawn product liability reinsurance for certain types of drugs," the letter said.

It said this forced companies to scrap the release of new drugs, wasting research and development investment, leaving those with drugs already on the market "very exposed".