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24 Jan, 2008

Published: 11:36 Thursday 24 January 2008
By: Edward Lander, New Model Adviser News Reporter

Shares at St James's Place jumped more than 15% after the firm published a 23% increase in annual growth figures this morning, taking it to the top of the FTSE 250 leaders board.

As of 11.38am the share price was up 38.75p to 282.75p, a rise of over 15% on the day.

The life insurer with a direct sales force has seen a slow down in new business growth in the fourth quarter to 10% on the previous year following 'challenging' market conditions.

New business figures in the first three quarters of 2007 were up 29% but overall sales for the year only up 23% following a slowdown in the fourth quarter. Fourth quarter new business was 113.2 million from 103.1 million in the previous year.

Chairman Mike Wilson said that the company expected a slowdown in growth, adding that it could not maintain the 58% growth in new business recorded in 2006.

Overall investment sales increased by 16% in the fourth quarter and there was a 14% increase in bond sales.

'Basically we're dealing with more sophisticated investors and they don't panic as much as unsophisticated investors,' said Wilson.

The group has maintained a long term growth target of 15% to 20% per year and hopes to increase its sales force by at least 5% in 2008.

'We're really trying to show confidence despite market turbulence,' said Wilson. 'I think that people will look back in 2008 and say it was probably a good time to invest.'

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