Sales warning spooks shares in Partnership

 
Marion Dakers
PARTNERSHIP Assurance’s shares slumped below their float price yesterday as investors were spooked by a warning that the specialist insurer will see no growth in the fourth quarter.

The firm, which raised £125m when it listed in June, said total sales were up nine per cent to £931.7m in the nine months to the end of September.

Retirement sales rose 12 per cent to £884.3m, offsetting a 35 per cent slide in its care business, which allows customers to insure against the cost of moving to a care home, to £44.9m.

The firm specialises in products for Britons whose life expectancy is reduced, such as smokers. Partnership said it is outperforming the non-standard annuities market, which shrank 15 per cent in the third quarter.

But it added that sales will be flat for the rest of the year, due to particularly good growth a year ago when gender-neutral pricing rules began.

“The fundamental drivers expected to deliver market growth over the medium and long term remain intact, and we therefore continue to be confident that the market disruption is a temporary phenomenon,” said chief executive Steve Groves.

While Partnership said it still expects to reach full-year operating profit expectations, analysts moved to downgrade their predictions.

Panmure Gordon trimmed its sales forecast by eight per cent to £1.33bn.

Shares closed down 21 per cent at 325p, below the 385p float price.