Tuesday 3 March 2015 3:35 am

Direct Line boosts dividend as it meets all IPO targets - but warns of "competitive" market

Direct Line has increased its dividend despite operating profits falling for the last calendar year. 

The figures

It was broadly positive for the insurance group. 
Operating profits fell from £509m to £506m in 2014, but everything else was on the up: Group statutory pre-tax profit rose 12.2 per cent to £456.8m and final dividend per share rose 4.8 per cent to 8.8p, with a second special interim dividend of 4p. 
In total, last year Direct Line is paid 27.2p per share, up from 20.6p paid out in 2013. 
Gross written premium from ongoing operations were 3.8 per cent lower than in 2013, reflecting a “disciplined approach to underwriting in motor and home”. 

Why it's interesting

Direct Line went public in 2012, and in this set of results was able to confirm that all targets set at the point of IPO were either “met or exceeded”. 
The business is also selling off its international arm for €550 million (£430 million) as it focuses on the UK market. 
But the group did warn over the “highly competitive” motor and home markets, which it said had been “characterised by periods of market price deflation”.
“Against this backdrop the group will continue to adopt a flexible, but disciplined, approach to managing the trade-off between margin and volumes. Meanwhile, the group is investing in building future capability and continues to identify opportunities to improve efficiency," 

What they said

Chief executive Paul Geddes said: "At the time of our IPO in 2012 we announced four targets for 2014, and I am delighted to report that we have met or exceeded all of them. After paying the regular and special dividends for 2014, we will also have returned a total of £836 million to shareholders since we began life as a public company.
"Underlying this performance is the successful delivery of many initiatives to improve the competitiveness of our business and to improve the propositions and experience we offer our customers. We will continue to invest in our brands, our technology and our people with the mission to make insurance much easier and better value for our customers."