Brit Insurance Holdings has warned its second half year profits are likely to take a hit, despite announcing strong first half results.

The company reported strong overall profits and underwriting performance with its gross written premium (GWP) up 4.6% to £727m.

First half pre-tax profit rose to £106.8m, up from £106m, beating analysts’ expectations of a 7% fall.

But Brit Insurance warned of challenging days ahead, leading into the peak US windstorm season.

Chief executive Dane Douetil said: “In our opinion it is unlikely that second half year profits will match the first half, as a result of a more competitive environment in many classes of insurance.”

Douetil added that although the UK market will remain challenging, it is expected to improve by the latter half of 2008.

Brit UK saw pre-tax profit cut to £8.5m from £30.4m in 2006, owing to lower reserve releases, the cost of the June floods and higher expenses.

Losses were felt in the motor and property areas.

The division’s GWP was stable at £148m.

Meanwhile, Brit has announced that Clive Coates is due to retire as chairman at the AGM on 15 May.

Coates will be succeeded by John Barton, who is appointed a non-executive director and deputy chairman of Brit Insurance Holdings from 1 October.

Barton is currently chairman of Next and is also a non-executive director of WH Smith.