City & Corporate: Friends Provident hires Finsbury and Consolidated

Pensions and life insurance giant Friends Provident has split its PR brief into two separate accounts, ending an eight-year relationship with Bell Pottinger Corporate & Financial (BPC&F).

FP director of group communications Nick Boakes said the firm had appointed Finsbury to its financial comms account last Friday after a seven-way pitch.

But he added that FP had also appointed Consolidated Communications to handle the financial services brief, which had been part of the account handled by BPC&F.

Boakes revealed that the pitch, which was completed earlier this month, had originally been for a single account and was part of a rolling review of FP's advisers.

The accounts are together understood to be worth around £150,000.

The appointment of Finsbury and Consolidated does not affect Financial Dynamics, which has handled investor relations for over a year. Boakes said FP had no plans to review its relationship with FD.

In May FP sold its venture capital firm, Isis Equity Partners, to the company's management in a bid to avoid new accounting rules that would have forced it to consolidate Isis's investments onto its balance sheet.

International financial reporting standards (IFRS), will replace the UK's generally accepted accounting principles on 31 December.

FP reported a 41 per cent hike in first-quarter sales for 2005 ahead of market expectations.

FP sold £129m-worth of life and pensions products in that period, a figure that was boosted by last year's acquisition of Luxembourg-based insurer Lombard.

While FP's UK sales rose 20 per cent to £88m, international earnings were up 132 per cent to £41m. Lombard International was up 74 per cent, making £19m in the first quarter of this year.

Market watchers have attributed improved results from financial services firms, which were hit hard following the stock market falls earlier in the decade, as symptomatic of the recovering equity market. FP holds a 4.3 per cent share of the UK life and pensions market.

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