March 7, 2018 / 8:13 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-UK's esure profit beats on strong demand for motor insurance

(Adds combined ratio, forecast, analyst estimate, background)

March 7 (Reuters) - British insurer esure Group Plc reported on Wednesday a better-than-expected 35.6 percent rise in full-year pretax profit, driven by an increase in demand for its motor insurance products.

Gross written premiums rose 25.2 percent to 820.2 million pounds in the year and was above analysts' average estimate of 813 million pounds. Motor gross written premiums rose 30.3 percent to 734.3 million pounds in 2017, the company said.

Motor premiums rose in the first half of 2017, partly in response to the new rules for personal injury claims, but reversed course to fall in the next two quarters after Britain said it planned to change the way the payments are calculated, a move which would cut the size of those payments.

Combined operating ratio, a measure of underwriting profitability, improved to 96.7 percent from 98.8 percent, against consensus estimates of 96.4 million pounds. A number below 100 percent indicates a profit.

The insurer said it was targeting a similar combined operating ratio in 2018.

The insurer said pretax profit from continuing operations rose to 98.6 million pounds ($137.0 million) in 2017 from 72.7 million pounds a year earlier.

Analysts on average were expecting a profit of 96.5 million pounds, according to company-compiled estimates. ($1 = 0.7196 pounds)

Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain and Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri

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