Sedgwick raises pension set-aside to pounds 80m

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Sedgwick, the insurance broker, has been forced to increase the amount of money it is setting aside for settling pensions mis-selling cases to pounds 80m, it emerged yesterday.

The company said it had to add to the original pounds 35m set aside in April following a decision by regulators to expand the scope of the mis-selling review.

Sedgwick said that the pounds 80m charge reflected its best estimates for the costs of investigating 24,000 policies. Sax Riley, the chairman, added that the costs may rise higher because of regulatory factors beyond Sedgwick's control.

The full ultimate cost of the investigations will depend on the Financial Services Authority's final statement on policy and final guidance, which is not expected to be published until later this year, Sedgwick said.

The final cost also depends on long-term interest rate trends, according to Rob White-Cooper, the chief executive. Lower long-term interest rates are increasing the number of pension cases that must be reviewed and the compensation levels they are due, he said.

The pounds 80m charge includes the cost of insurance which will cover Sedgwick if its estimate rises by up to pounds 37m. It also includes the cost of an option to extend the coverage by an additional pounds 25m.

"This issue isn't peculiar to us, but we are the only ones who have found an insurance solution to deal with this problem," Mr Riley said. "We are trying to take the uncertainty out of the situation."

Companies in Bermuda and London are providing the insurance, although Sedgwick would not name the insurers.

Sedgwick, which is widely regarded as a candidate for takeover or merger, announced its provision as part of a rising number of costs which offset the underlying growth in the business from improved fee income.

The group made a pre-tax loss for the six months to 30 June of pounds 16.9m, as the pensions charge ate into last year's pounds 66.5m profit.

Commission and fees - the equivalent of turnover for the insurance broker - rose by four per cent from pounds 485m to pounds 492.6m during the period. The group expects a more favourable balance between brokerage and fees and expenses growth for the year. The interim dividend was frozen at 3p.

Sedgwick shares rose 2p yesterday to close at 158p.

Andreas Whittam Smith,

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