UPDATE 1-3i Group sticks to dividend plans, profit slips to a third of last year

(Adds quote, more details from statement)

May 14 (Reuters) - 3i Group Plc stuck to its plan to pay a 2020 dividend on Thursday after saying returns from its private equity business fell to just a third of those a year ago due to a slump in the value of its investments in travel, retail and automotive businesses in March’s global market selloff.

“For 3i and many other businesses, the next 12 to 24 months will be among the most challenging periods historically in which to operate a business and generate a return,” the investment management company said.

Lockdowns across the world to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus have brought economies to a near halt, sparking sharp falls in equities as investors fret over an impending recession.

The FTSE 100 blue-chip index has seen one-fourth of its value wiped off since a peak in January, caught amidst the market turmoil.

3i, which is focused on mid-market private equity and infrastructure, said gross investment return was 352 million pounds ($429.48 million), or 6%, compared to 1.15 billion pounds or 20% in the financial year ended March 2019.

Net asset value declined to 804 pence per share as at March-end, versus 815 pence a year earlier.

However, 3i declared total dividend of 35 pence per share for the fiscal year 2020, with a dividend of 17.5 pence per share to be paid in July 2020.

$1 = 0.8196 pounds Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich