Direct Line, the UK's largest direct motor insurer with 3.6 million policyholders, is launching in Italy and Germany under its English brand name .

The plan was revealed with the release of the company's interim results, which showed its pre-tax profits increased by 47% to £112m for the six months to June 30, 2001.

Direct Line is part of the Royal Bank of Scotland group, which achieved an overall pre-tax profit of £2.751m, a 37% increase on the same period last year.

Direct Line said it planned to rebrand its services in Italy and Germany in English, as Direct Line, after its purchase of the European business of US general insurer Allstate earlier this year. The deal involves 117,000 motor policyholders in Germany and 27,000 in Italy.

In the UK, Direct Line saw a 23% increase in its sales of motor insurance and a 10% rise in demand for home insurance. As a result, earned premiums for the group grew by 32% to £817m. However, gross claims increased by 27% to £585m, which the firm said reflected the growth in policy numbers.

Direct Line had 3.6 million motor policyholders at June 30, 2001, including 500,000 insured through its business partnerships arm, Green Flag.