Total offshore life sales fell by 18 per cent last year to £6.8bn APE from £8bn in 2002 according to figures from the Association of International Life Offices.
Worldwide sales of singlepremium products totalled £4.5bn and regular-premium business was £2.40bn.
But the Ailo says the underlying trend through the year is up, with figures for overall fourth quarter sales last year 15 per cent higher than in the first quarter of this year.
It says the fall in sales of offshore bonds mirrors the experience of other retail investments such as unit trusts and Isas, which fell by 16 per cent in 2003 according to figures from the Investment Management Association.
The Ailo, which was formed in 1897 and comprises over 30 companies from seven jurisdictions with parent companies based in 14 different countries, represents offshore life offices with governments and regulators.
Chief executive Stuart Fairclough says: “It is good news that while overall sales fell, the underlying trend shows sales of offshore life products rising over the year. By the end of 2003, sales had almost reached the same level as 2002. The offshore market has shown its resilience.
“The fall is largely linked to equity market falls and consumer confidence. Early indications of new business levels in 2004 are positive. I am confident we will see significant growth in the market over the course of 2004.”
Scottish Life International head of corporate communications Douglas Law says: “The fall correlates to the problems faced by the equity markets. The Government's plans to change the tax rules for pre-owned assets may hit sales in the future but this fall is more about last year's bear market.”