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Just Group first-quarter retirement sales beat estimates

Retirement services company Just Group rallied on Thursday as it reported a jump in first-quarter sales thanks to a strong performance in defined benefit de-risking.
Retirement income sales were 43% higher at £454m, with defined benefit sales up a whopping 99% to £249m compared to the first quarter as employee benefit consultants proactively manage the industry pipeline and as the market becomes less seasonal. Meanwhile, total new business sales rose 41% to £617m.

Chief executive Rodney Cook said: "We have taken full advantage of buoyant market conditions to make a strong start to the year, especially in DB. We have maintained our financial discipline and are in a position to price even more selectively over the balance of the year.

"The pipeline remains strong across our main products, particularly in DB De-risking, and we look forward to the remainder of the year."

Barclays, which rates the stock at 'overweight', said the company had a "strong" start to 2018, with retirement income sales 14% ahead of both company-compiled consensus and its forecast, while total new business sales were 20% higher than Barclays' estimate and 16% better than consensus expectations.

Numis, which rates the stock at 'buy', said the company has produced an "exceptionally strong" first-quarter trading statement.

"We believe the shares remain undervalued: we expect operating earnings per share of 18.1p in 2018, meaning the shares trade at 7.0x Op EPS, or at 59% of 2018E embedded value.

"As the stock overhang is cleared and the company delivers growth in sales and earnings, we expect the shares will re-rate."

At 0955 BST, the shares were up 12.4% to 157.80p.

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