Insurer admits competitive market will make growth plans 'hard to achieve'

Brit has been forced to put on hold its UK regional growth plans due to the "increasingly competitive" market conditions in 2006.

The insurer reported a 13.6% fall in UK gross written premiums (GWP) in the first six months of the year to £146.5m with rates also sliding.

Dane Douetil, chief executive of Brit, said the company had held its strategy of avoiding "short-term price-cut-led" growth.

"The UK is certainly the most challenging area for us," he said.

"Market conditions have been tough and competitive, but we are just not prepared in the short-term to chase after growth goals at the expense of profit."

As a result, plans to grow the UK underwriting centre have been put on hold until 2007 when market conditions are expected to improve.

Douetil said: "Our intention to grow our UK division significantly and profitably over the next five years remains unaltered, although in the short term this will be difficult to achieve.

"We continue to seek out opportunities wherever we can in the current difficult conditions, while continuing to invest in the future to ensure that we can capitalise fully once these conditions improve."

Despite a reduction in gross written premium across most lines, including property and motor, liability took the biggest hit falling from £112.8m to £52.1m within six months. Brit did, however, experience some growth in its UK package account and motor special risks.

Meanwhile, the group has announced an increase in profit before tax and the impact of foreign exchange on non-monetary items of £16m, rising to £118.5m.

Underwriting profit also rose by 38.4% to £92m with net earned premiums increasing by 16% to £522.2m.