May 5 (Bloomberg) -- St. James’s Place Plc, the wealth manager majority-owned by Lloyds Banking Group Plc, said first-quarter sales rose 18 percent on higher demand for unit trusts and tax-free individual savings accounts.
Revenue climbed to 156.7 million pounds ($259 million) in the three months to March 31, from 133.3 million pounds a year ago, the Cirencester, England-based firm said in a statement today. That beat the 151.3 million-pound estimate of nine analysts surveyed by the company.
“An increased tax burden, sustained low interest rates, increased ISA limits, and people conscious of their retirement obligations and taking care of themselves is creating an environment” that helps sales, Chief Executive Officer David Bellamy said in an interview.
St. James’s Place, which advises clients with more than 30,000 pounds to invest, is the top performer in the FTSE ASX Life Insurance Index over the past six months as it raised its dividend and funds under management climbed. The stock could rise further once uncertainty over Lloyds’s 60 percent stake in the firm is resolved, according to analysts including Barrie Cornes at Panmure Gordon & Co.
Lloyds’s stake is “neither strategic nor core and will be disposed of at some point in time,” Bellamy said. “The timing is entirely in Lloyds’s hands.”
Unit trust sales were valued at 360.3 million pounds in the period, 22 percent higher than a year before. The company’s overall sales are calculated on an annual premium equivalent basis, which is adjusted for investments made monthly.
The wealth manager appointed Charles Gregson as chairman, replacing Mike Wilson, who founded the firm with Mark Weinberg 20 years ago. Gregson, who also chairs ICAP Plc, joined the board as a non-executive director in January last year and will become chairman from January 2012.
The stock dropped 0.6 percent to 352.8 pence at 8:08 a.m. in London trading, valuing the firm at about 1.7 billion pounds.
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