Sun Life pension sales fall

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SUN LIFE & Provincial, the London-listed insurer controlled by AXA, the French insurance giant, yesterday reported a steep fall in sales of its core product, pensions, writes Andrew Verity.

The group, which trades under the name AXA Sun Life, said it had attracted 14 per cent less in lump sums to pension products as new premiums fell to pounds 408m in 1998. Regular savings into pensions also fell.

AXA Sun Life said sales were affected by its decision not to sacrifice profitability in the highly competitive pensions market. This included personal pensions, a market once dominated by Sun Life.

The company said the fall was also due to a computer blunder by the Department of Social Security, which failed to pay pounds 30m in national insurance rebates owed to pension savers.

Overall, new business was up 4 per cent, boosted by a rush to buy with- profits bonds - products that mitigate the effects of stock market volatility. AXA Sun Life attracted more than pounds 1bn to the bonds last year.

Les Owen, chief executive, said: "To have achieved new business growth of 4 per cent without sacrificing profitability, whilst implementing the merger between Sun Life and AXA Equity & Law, is a highly commendable performance."