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Surprise at move to sell Swiss Life UK

Protection giant Swiss Life UK has been put up for sale by parent company Swiss Life Group in a “surprise” move following a review of its corporate strategy.

The group says it will focus on its core European life and pension businesses.

All other niche businesses, including operations in Italy and Spain and Belgium, are to be sold off.

The group says it is struggling because of turbulence in the markets and the losses run up by its Switzerland business due to guaranteed returns on pensions.

Swiss Life UK managing director Brian Hurd says the decision is a surprise to the firm. He says the parent company is pulling out of any markets where it feels it cannot establish a strong presence across all product areas.

Hurd insists that the UK business will push ahead with growth plans as the group has pledged its support until a buyer is found. He says the UK management team will take an active role in promoting the business as a valuable asset to a potential buyer rather than leaving it up to the parent company.

Hurd believes the best suitor would be a company with an established presence in the UK but is looking for a protection business with strength in the IFA market.

He says that while a management buyout would be an attractive option, it is not a realistic one because of the cash-intensive nature of the business.

Hurd says: “The group has decided that if they cannot establish a sizeable approach across the range of products in a particular market, then they do not want to invest over the long term. We would be valuable to companies currently weak in our area of specialisation and our strength in IFA distribution as well. I cannot imagine a circumstance where we would not be sold as a going concern.”

Swiss Life Key statistics

700,000 policies in force

£130bn total sums assured

£205m annual premium 2001

More than 200 million lives covered

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