Insurance group Admiral has maintained its position as one of the fastest growing providers in the UK by revealing that its 2004 pre-tax profits were up by a third.

Admiral, which specializes in on-line motor insurance, recorded profits of GBP100.6 million in its last fiscal year, an increase of 30%. Growth was achieved through a significant expansion of business as turnover increased by 28% to GBP548 million.

Admiral, which also sells under the brands and Diamond, recently widened its product portfolio to include home and travel insurance; however its core offering, auto insurance, remained its major business with premiums up 27% to GBP470.4 million.

Regarding its constitute parts, the Cardiff-headquartered insurer achieved a major impact with its Internet only branch, which increased its customer numbers by an impressive 75%. Meanwhile, the Admiral and Diamond brands also enjoyed healthy growth at 11% and 18% respectively.

The one negative note to Admiral’s strong showing was its combined ratio, which rose to 82% from 67%. However, by industry standards 82% is still a strong ratio.

The group announced a special dividend of 6.2p per share, on top of its normal final dividend of 3.1p per share.

Company boss Henry Engelhardt injected a cautious note to the announcement however. Engelhardt said that the auto insurance market was becoming less profitable and that premiums would shrink in 2005 leading him to predict smaller growth in the current year.