Metlife says it is “entirely committed” to the UK market in reaction to adviser concern following news it has put its bulk annuities business, MetLife Assurance, up for sale.
The provider, whose US parent has headquarters in New York, has appointed investment bank Citi to alert potential bidders about the availability of the business.
It is unclear how much the provider will receive for the business, although Sky News reported the figure is expected to be “significantly below” £1bn.
MetLife previously offered a fixed-term annuity but decided to exit the market in September last year, saying “historically low interest rates” had prevented it from pricing the product competitively.
The moves have led advisers to question Metlife’s commitment to the UK. Rowley Turton director Scott Gallacher says: “This will inevitably fuel more speculation about MetLife’s commitment to the UK. If it did exit, the concern would be that members would end up stuck in a vulture fund with rubbish investment returns.”
Forty Two Wealth Management partner Alan Dick says: “MetLife would not be the first major international provider to run away from the UK with its tail between its legs.
“The decision to sell the bulk annuities business, on top of pulling out of the fixed-term annuity market last year, does make you question how long it will be around for.”
However, MetLife UK managing director, Dominic Grinstead says: “We are entirely committed to the UK market and here for the long term. MetLife UK launched six years ago and is firmly established as the fastest-growing life company in the UK.
“We continue to invest heavily in our wealth management and employee benefits businesses. We have very recently invested in a centre of excellence for service and operations in Belfast under a 10-year contract with Capita and have just signed a 10-year lease on our UK headquarters at Canary Wharf to support our growth strategy. We have ambitious plans for 2013 and the years ahead based around innovation and commitment to adviser-led distribution.”