St James's Place upbeat as new business soars

WEALTH manager St James's Place yesterday posted robust sales in its first quarter along with what chief executive David Bellamy branded as the most upbeat trading update for two years.

But Bellamy said there was no news as to whether Lloyds Banking Group will retain or sell its 60 per cent stake in St James's, which it acquired with the takeover of HBOS.

The company said its most closely followed measure of new business, a combination of regular and single premiums, jumped 42 per cent from a year earlier to 133.3 million. Bellamy was "delighted" with the performance.

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The latest strong sales follow a good final quarter of 2009, which in turn came after a difficult previous two years, as equity markets fell and the economy worsened.

Asked if the current business climate was the best in the past two years, Bellamy said: "It probably is. The past 18 months have not been a great time for the market, what with the credit crunch and banking crisis."

St James's funds under management stood at 23.3 billion at the end of the quarter, up 52 per cent over 12 months. Sales of tax-exempt individual savings accounts more than doubled.