Universal Leaf Tobacco Co. in Richmond has signed a letter of intent to buy a title insurance firm and a land title company from Stamford, Conn.-based Continental Group Inc.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but Universal Leaf said Friday it hopes to close the deal before the end of September.

One of the two Continental companies, Lawyers Title Insurance Corp., originally was based in Richmond when the Connecticut firm acquired it as part of its purchase of Richmond Corp. in 1977. The other firm Universal Leaf is negotiating to buy is Continental Land Title Co.

The purchase of Lawyers Title would mark Universal Leaf's first venture into insurance, although the company has been trying for the past several years to diversify outside the tobacco-processing field.

O. Kemp Dozier, treasurer of Universal Leaf, said the company began looking into the possibility of buying certain Continental assets in June. For the fiscal year ended June 30, Universal Leaf reported net income of $38 million on revenue of $1.02 billion.

The Naval Sea Systems Command has awarded a three-year, $1.2 million contract to Quest Research Corp., a subsidiary of QuesTech Inc. , to evaluate shipbuilding materials and weapons technology.