Bottom Line: Sedgwick still under a cloud

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The Independent Online
SEDGWICK'S results failed to overcome the market's lack of interest in insurance brokers, whose shares have been under a cloud for a long time, at least when compared with the big composites.

This is understandable enough. There are risks from the Lloyd's saga, because the market remains important to Sedgwick (whose previous boss, David Rowland, is now chairman).

And deeper involvement at Sedgwick in life assurance sales is hardly a bull point, now that regulators are trampling all over the industry in search of inadequate selling techniques.

There is a suspicion that Sedgwick has had a harder time sorting out Noble Lowndes life business than it expected when it bought the company from TSB.

Sales in the business are down 7 per cent in the UK, though much of that could be explained by a general tailing off in the aftermath of all the bad publicity.

Group pre-tax profit in the first half rose pounds 7.6m to pounds 63.4m before tax. Brokerage and fees increased 20 per cent.

But, excluding acquisitions, the underlying increase was only 2 per cent, compared with a 1 per cent rise in expenses. And last August's rights issue restrained the earnings per share, down 0.3p to 7.3p.

But with the insurance cycle peaking, it is hard to make a case for a re-rating even of the biggest and best brokers such as Sedgwick.