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Admiral boss is happy with hard times

"If this is, as Dickens put it, the winter of despair, I say: Please, Sir, may I have some more?"

Little surprise Admiral's chief executive Henry Engelhardt begged for another dose of hard times as the car insurer presided over an eighth year of unbroken profit increases – yesterday up by 13 per cent to £299m. Revenues hit a record too and Admiral announced its most generous total dividend of 75.6p.

Shares rose 10 per cent or 104p to 1144p as the insurer paid 92 per cent of its profits to shareholders.

But Admiral still hit out at "no win, no fee" lawyers for taking out a chunk of its profits.

The Government is in the process of banning referral fees in personal injury claim cases, and finance director Kevin Chidwick said: "If we do see some genuine changes which reduce the cost of lawyers' involvement it will be a very good thing. Whiplash requires no proof on injury, but the cost has become enormous."

Fun guy: Games galore

Engelhardt says he wants staff selling car insurance at Admiral's Cardiff headquarters to have fun. So, after founding Admiral in 1993, he set up a "ministry of fun", hosting table football and "egg roulette" competitions. Apparently this involves an egg-on-head competition where one egg in six is not hard-boiled; the unlucky bod who cracks that one against their head gets yoked. Other evidence of Admiral fun? Every employee gets a piece of a jigsaw to demonstrate they are one part of a big team. All that fun has paid off, though: Engelhardt is worth more than £600m after floating Admiral in 2004.