Just Group shares drop as it ditches plan to reinstate dividend

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Just Group PLC (LON:JUST) shares slid as the retirement products firm abandoned a plan to reinstate its dividend for the 2019 financial year, blaming regulatory and economic uncertainty.


The company, formerly known as Just Retirement Group plc, ditched the dividend as it revealed profit fell by more than a quarter in the first half on the back of a sharp fall in new business.


Underlying operating profit fell 27% to GBP114mln due to a 39% decrease in new business operating profit to GBP74mln.


Revenue rose to GBP2.03bn from GBP1.45bn while net assets gained 28% to GBP2.13bn.


“Whilst we have made significant progress in adapting our business model, as is evident from today’s results, the first half of 2019 has not been easy for our business or for shareholders, as we have faced economic and regulatory challenges,” said interim chief executive David Richardson.


Just Group was hit by new rules from the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), which has forced companies to raise capital buffers for lifetime mortgages.


The group made a solvency capital requirement adjustment of GBP70mln for lifetime mortgages but said this was offset by signing reinsurance deals to pass longevity risk onto other firms, which strengthened its balance sheet.


The pro forma Solvency II coverage ratio-a key measure of capital strength – rose to 149% at the end of June from 136% at the end of December.


The firm warned that the new PRA rules could push up how much capital it needs to hold by another GBP130mln.


“We are adapting our business model with the aim of ensuring it is economically attractive in a challenging regulatory environment,” Richardson said.


“However, we are developing other strategic and business options to maximise shareholder value in parallel, with no options excluded.


“This includes keeping under regular review the possible need for further reductions in new business volumes.”


Just Group, which did not pay a dividend last year, said it would no longer pay a dividend for 2019 as previously stated.


Shares tanked 8.6% to 42.30p in morning trading.

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