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Friends shutting 11 area offices to cut £40m costs

Friends Provident is planning to close 11 area sales offices in a bid to reduce operating costs by at least £40m.

The closures, which will see the company consolidating into four regional offices, was announced as part of the firm’s results for the first quarter of this year.

UK life and pension new business fell by 2 per cent year on year from £169m to £165m.

Friends Provident International was the group’s star performer, with its business up by 77 per cent, from £32.7m to £58m.

Protection business fell by 12 per cent from £17m to £15m in the first quarter. The firm attributes the decline to the troubled mortgage market. In-force premiums rose from £311m in December last year to £315m this year.

Pension business rose by 11 per cent from £114m to £127m. The firm withdrew from marketing schemes with unfunded initial commission after its strategic review and says this is reflected in a 20 per cent drop in individual pension business from £15m to £12m.

The firm said in February it was selling F&C Asset Management, Lombard and Pantheon Financial to focus on its life and pension business. Lombard’s new business was up by 11 per cent, from £22m to £24m and F&C’s assets under management dropped from £101.8bn in March 2007 to £103.6bn in December.

Executive chairman Adrian Montague says: “The first-quarter new business figures were satisfying, and we were pleased that Friends Provident International continues to show a strong and growing contribution to the overall result. We are making good progress on delivery of our strategic review and look forward to providing a full update at the interims.”

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