By Jonathan Davies

Insurance giant Direct Line has reported a 50% rise in its pre-tax profits for the first half of the year after a "refresh" of the Churchill business.

Direct Line posted profits of £315 million in the six months to June 30, up from £211.7m in the same period last year.

The insurer said the "refresh" of its Churchill insurance brand helped it to increase sales from comparison websites. It also suggested that Churchill's new campaign, which focuses on dependability, helped to boost sales and profits.

Direct Line also said profits were boosted by a lack of claims relating to extreme weather conditions. It was one of many insurers that were negatively affected by the Somerset floods at the start of 2014.

Paul Geddes, chief executive, said: "Customers have reacted positively to the refreshed propositions for Direct Line and Churchill, as well as better customer service. This has led to increased retention rates and, in particular for the Direct Line brand, improved net promoter scores. Together, this has helped us to hold our gross written premium flat in competitive markets.

"With the completion of the international disposal, we are now totally focused on UK general insurance, and our capital and reserves remain strong. We are busy improving our efficiency, propositions and technology to make insurance much easier and better value for our customers."