Budget backers get pounds 10m pay-out

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BUDGET GROUP, the privately held insurance company behind policies sold by the Post Office, Marks & Spencer and Bradford & Bingley, has paid a pounds 10m dividend to its small group of backers with the majority of the payment going to founder and chairman Douw Steyn, the South African- born entrepreneur.

Mr Steyn and his family trust are the majority shareholders in the group, which grew turnover by pounds 32m to pounds 116.3m last year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. The group made an operating profit of pounds 9.8m, slightly down on the previous year's pounds 10.5m, but the company has succeeded in growing into one of the UK's biggest insurance intermediaries.

The company's management, led by the chief executive Peter Winslow, have a minority stake, while another wealthy South African family, the Enthovens, are also understood to hold a stake.

The parent company that owns Budget's ordinary shares is based in the Channel Islands, while its dividend-bearing preference shares are controlled by Dutch-based companies.

Mr Steyn came to prominence in South Africa through the formation of Auto & General, now one of the country's biggest car insurers. He started Budget in the UK in 1992 as an underwriter but from 1997 decided to focus its operations on broking.

Despite its rapid growth, Mr Winslow said yesterday that Budget had no immediate plans to follow in the footsteps of Admiral Group, another insurance broker, and seek a stock market listing. Since its float last autumn, Admiral's shares have soared. "It's something that we talk about and keep under review," Mr Winslow said.

Budget's core UK broking business had turnover of pounds 95m in 2004, compared with pounds 74m in 2003. It includes a chain of 85 Budget-branded shops and an internet and telephone-based direct sales operation.