Just Group's sales lifted by retirement income products

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UPDATE 1-Just Group's sales lifted by retirement income products

* Total sales up 3 percent in six months to end-June
    * Post-merger cost savings target reached one year early

 (Adds detail from statement, analyst quote, shares)
    By Simon Jessop and Esha VaishLONDON, July 18 (Reuters) - Britain'sJust Group <JUSTJ.L>,
which sells financial products for retirement, reported a 3
percent increase in new business in the first half, and said it
was speeding up its plan to cut costs.
    Formed by the merger of Just Retirement and Partnership
Assurance in 2016, the company said it had achieved its original
target for synergies of 40 million pounds ($52.39 million) a
year earlier than expected. It now aims to make cost savings of
45 million pounds.
    Total sales in the first half of the year were 975 million
pounds, the company said in a statement, up from 949 million
pounds a year earlier, driven by a 16 percent rise in sales of
retirement income products to 720 million pounds.
    It also took on more risk from corporate defined benefit
pension schemes, with sales up 80 percent to 296 million pounds
in the period.
    "These figures show the continuing benefits of the merger,"
CEO Rodney Cook said, adding that the company will focus on
writing high-quality business rather than chasing volume growth.
    Cook said profitability in the first six months of the year
is expected to have exceeded 7 percent and, combined with more
moderate volume growth, the company remained "comfortable with
full year expectations".
    Sales of its Guaranteed Income for Life product, a
re-branded annuity, were down 2 percent on the year although up
24 percent from the first-quarter.
    Lifetime Mortgage advances, where the company helps clients
release some of the value of their home to help fund their
retirement, fell 28 percent on the year to 230 million pounds.
    Shares in Just were up 0.5 percent in early trade.
    "We expect the company to continue to be selective in
writing new business, maintain strong margins, offer dividend
growth of 6 percent, and maintain surplus capital around or
above 700 million pounds," Numis analyst Marcus Barnard said.
($1 = 0.7635 pounds)

 (Reporting by Simon Jessop; Editing by Rachel Armstrong and
Louise Heavens)
 ((simon.jessop@thomsonreuters.com; +44)(0)(207 542 5052;
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