STANDARD LIFE yesterday shrugged off a near 50% decline in sales of individual pensions in the first nine months of the year as it continued to push its higher-margin products - a key part of its plans to float on the stock market in 2006, according to this morning's papers.
The one-time bread and butter of insurance companies delivered just £101m of revenues in the period to the end of September, down from more than £190m last year, says the Scotsman.
Meanwhile, the new self-invested personal pension products (Sipps) more than trebled sales to £88m.
The group said its third quarter had been tougher than the nine months as a whole, as price competition intensified. Worldwide insurance revenues fell 7% in the three months, compared with a 5% rise over the longer period.
Finance director Alison Reed - who joined from Marks & Spencer in the summer - said she was "very pleased" with how the business was positioning itself, highlighting the lower cost base and the "focus on which business we write".
THE PENSIONS shortfall faced by the UK's biggest companies looks set to stabilise this year at around £70bn, reports the Daily Telegraph.
The deficit faced by the UK's 200 largest firms with final salary pension schemes has risen in recent years due to a combination of poor investment returns and increased life expectancy.
But consultancy group Aon Consulting said it expected the shortfall to end 2005 at about the same level it began the year.
THE BATTLE for compensation for Equitable Life policyholders has been given a boost after it emerged that a European parliament "committee of inquiry" is to investigate the scandal, says the Guardian.
More than 200 MEPs have already signed a petition proposing an investigation into the debacle, in which a million people saw the value of their retirement savings and investments slashed.
An inquiry can only be invoked if at least a quarter of all 730 MEPs call for it. Campaigners from Emag, the Equitable Members' Action Group, said yesterday that the levels of support "should now make the inquiry a certainty".
That could put fresh pressure on the UK government, which has resisted calls to compensate victims. There were indications yesterday that some MEPs may support taking the UK government to the European court of justice. The official Penrose Report into what went wrong revealed that Equitable's former management had engaged in dubious financial practices, but also highlighted a number of failures by City watchdogs. These contributed to a million investors - an estimated 15,000 of whom live in Ireland and on the continent - losing out to the tune of £4bn, according to campaigners.
A LEADING business group has criticised the government for wasting millions of pounds on ineffective schemes to help small businesses, reports the Times.
In a report published today, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants’ small business committee calls on the Government to reduce the number of agencies offering help to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), saying they overlap and are poorly co-ordinated.
The government spends about £2.5bn a year on schemes to help small businesses, including its flagship Business Link, which puts business people in touch with experts to help them to develop their companies.
However, figures from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) showed that less than a third of SMEs used Business Link last year, while less than 10% of businesses that were about to start up consulted the service.
The DTI said that it had streamlined the help it offers, but Alan Johnson, Trade and Industry Secretary, admitted that more needed to be done.
If you have any comments you would like to add to this story or would like to speak to its author about a similar subject, telephone Emily Perryman on 020 7968 4554 or email [email protected].IFAonline
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