Admiral, the car insurance group, has hit a new landmark, becoming the largest toy distributor in South Wales, its home base, thanks to the success of Brian the Robot.
More than 200,000 Brians have been sent to customers buying insurance through its price-comparison website Confused.com since it launched the promotion early this year. “Brians are probably not flying off the shelves as fast as meerkats,” its chief financial officer Geraint Jones admitted, referring to his arch-rival, Comparethemarket.com. “But in a fearsome market Brian is helping us to fight back.”
Admiral cheered investors by reporting a 1 per cent rise in first-half profits to £186m when most analysts had been predicting a modest fall. Its shares rose 56p to 1,522p. The improvement came largely through the UK car insurance business, which increased operating profits by 6 per cent to £219m.
By contrast, the price-comparison businesses swung from a profit of £5.9m to a loss of £4m. The outgoing chief executive, Henry Engelhardt, called it “a good start to a challenging year. Profits, customer numbers, earnings per share and the dividend are all up.”
Admiral’s 7,700 employees also benefit, receiving the maximum permitted £1,800 share bonus for the first half, up from £1,500 last year.
UK customer numbers rose by 6 per cent to 4.2 million and Admiral also made larger releases from reserves for future claims. Mr Jones said the group had raised new premiums by “slightly more than the market rate of 3 per cent”, but the average premium paid fell 3 per cent to £481, reflecting more renewals than new business in the half.