Barclays says that it "is currently reviewing options for the Barclays Life Assurance Company business". It adds the operation was "not core to the group's franchise. This review may or may not result in a sale."
Banks never ever say something may be sold when it will not be. Translating from ‘bankese’ to English, it means that the bank has put the business up for sale and wants the best deal it can. It also means that if no one wants to buy it, it will look at other options to exit the business. Banks need the money so are selling off the family silver. Barclays Life is hardly the family silver, more like a pile of knick knacks stored in the attic.
High street bank Barclays life assurance arm has more than £7bn of funds under management. Barclays Life Assurance Company looks after policyholders' life, pension and investment plans, and pays pensions to more than 70,000 people every month.
It was created through the combination of Woolwich Life and Barclays Life, but the division is shrinking rapidly as both brands stopped accepting new customer applications in 2001.
Barclays' decision to look for a bidder for its life assurance arm comes at a time when insurance companies and specialist buyout firms are competing fiercely to buy closed pension books. They seek to run these so-called "zombie funds" collectively and generate a small return over a number of years.
The subsidiary's main book of business comprises unit-linked life and pensions policies, although it has an expanding volume of annuities in payment. It also has a small block of term assurance business.
Life insurance: News update: June 2008