Admiral pre-tax profits rise

Insurer Admiral posted a forecast-beating one percent rise in first-half pre-tax profits to £186.1m, helped by growing customer numbers and lower than expected claims.

The profits came in above analysts’ expectations of £163m, according to a company-supplied consensus forecast.

Admiral, which owns UK price comparison site and U.S. site, said turnover was up two per cent to £1,057.5m in the first-half.

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The group, whose other brands include Elephant, Diamond and Bell, said customers were up six per cent to 4.19 million.

Henry Engelhardt, chief executive officer, said it was “a good start to a challenging year”.

Mr Engelhardt, who earlier this year announced that he would be stepping down next May after 25 years at the helm of business, said: “Profits are up, customer numbers are up, earnings per share is up, the dividend is up ... you might say it was a pretty ‘up’ first half.

“In particular I’d like to point out the profits in our Italian business, ConTe. Not only did it deliver an accounting profit for the half year, but improved loss ratio projections show that the operation was profitable in 2012 on a written basis. And the operation is growing, having just gone past the 300,000 customer mark.

“The UK business turned in a very solid result helped by positive claims cost development, with modest growth accompanying price increases.

“Overall I’d say, it has been a good first half.”

Admiral competes with UK rivals including RSA, Direct Line and esure Group.

The firm said in a trading statement it would pay an interim dividend of 51p per share, against analyst forecasts of 45.6 pence.