LONDON, March 19 (Reuters) - British insurer Partnership Assurance blamed a 3 percent fall in new business premiums in 2013 on customers having rushed to buy products the previous year, before a raft of regulatory reforms came in.
The group said the introduction of gender neutral pricing in late 2012 and reforms to how financial products are sold in the UK meant much of the business that would have been written in 2013 was booked in 2012.
Partnership, which listed last June, sells annuities to pensioners who are heavy smokers or suffer medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, paying out higher rates because they are unlikely to live as long as healthier retirees.
The group also warned it expects total sales in the first quarter of 2014 to be lower than in the last three months of 2013.
"The regulatory changes that occurred at the end of 2012 have had a deeper and longer impact on the retirement and care annuity markets than we foresaw. In these challenging conditions we have maintained our pricing discipline," said Steve Groves, Group Chief Executive.
New business operating profit was 86 million pounds, down from 94 million pounds a year earlier.
Group profits before tax on an IFRS basis was up 24 percent, however, at 83 million pounds. (Reporting by Chris Vellacott. Editing by Freya Berry)