UPDATE 1-UK car insurer Admiral first-half pre-tax profit halves

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LONDON, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Admiral posted a 48% fall in pre-tax profit in the first half to 251.3 million pounds ($303.50 million) due to a "more turbulent cycle" and rising inflation, the UK motor insurer said on Wednesday.

"Although, as expected, profit has decreased against last year, the unique conditions of the pandemic years make 2019 a better comparison - with profit and customer numbers increasing by 19% and 35% respectively since then," Admiral Chief Executive Milena Mondini de Focatiis said in a first-half earnings statement.

Despite the fall in profits, Admiral's total number of customers rose to 9.11 million from 8.02 million, with international insurance customers rising 13%.

It pledged to pay a total interim dividend, which included a further special dividend following the sale of the Penguin Portals comparison businesses, of 105 pence per share.

Motor insurers did well during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, as fewer cars on the roads meant fewer claims.

But supply chain issues and inflation following the pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine have pushed up the cost of motor repairs, leading to higher premiums across the market.

UK car insurance premiums have risen by 6% in the last 12 months, according to a survey from Willis Towers Watson and

Admiral said it had adapted its rates in response to rising prices earlier than the market and has maintained a cautious approach to holding reserves.

($1 = 0.8280 pounds) (Reporting by Huw Jones and Carolyn Cohn, editing by Sinead Cruise)