Bupa loses custom for its private medical insurance

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The Independent Online

The number of British customers at Bupa, the private medical group, is falling at its fastest rate for 12 years as rising unemployment and recession pushes hordes of policy-holders to ditch their cover.

The group said that while its UK private medical insurance (PMI) volumes had remained stable, "retention has proved challenging with both employer and individual segments experiencing higher lapses in the period". Bupa said net PMI policies had fallen by 3 per cent since the start of the year.

However, revenues at its UK and North American division grew by 1 per cent to £1.07bn in the six months to 30 June, after price increases and a strong performance from its American Health Dialog business boosted its performance. Bupa has launched Health Dialog, its chronic disease management business, in Britain and France and also plans to introduce it in Spain and Australia.

For the half-year, Bupa delivered revenues up by 26 per cent to £3.38bn, which included 5 per cent of organic growth, 16 per cent from acquisitions and 5 per cent from foreign currency movements.

Ray King, the Bupa chief executive, said: "Our insurance businesses have performed well, notwithstanding higher claims. In care services, tight cost control has helped offset pricing and occupancy pressures. Our surplus has also benefited from stronger financial markets and the relative weakening of sterling compared with last year. Cash generation remains very robust and we strengthened the balance sheet in July 2009 through a £350m long-term debt issue."

Over the half-year, Bupa grew its underlying pre-tax surplus by 7 per cent to £174.9m. It said the swine flu outbreak would have a minimal effect on its business, but it had provided Tamiflu to some corporate clients and set up a helpline for them.

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