Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Thursday, 26 February 2009

Insurance giant axes 1,200 jobs

Royal Sun Alliance office
RSA says it wants to maintain tight financial management

One of Britain's biggest insurers Royal Sun Alliance (RSA) is to cut 1,200 jobs in the UK by the middle of next year.

The news comes despite RSA declaring a profit before tax of £759m, up 13% in the calendar year 2008.

Chief executive Andy Haste said: "In a year of challenging trading conditions and volatile investment markets, we have again delivered strong results."

RSA employs around 8,800 people in the UK, with 1,200 of them in Liverpool, and 900 in Horsham, west Sussex.

It also has sizeable centres in Manchester, Sunderland and Halifax.

RSA, whose share price was up nearly 15% in late afternoon trading, said it wanted to maintain "tight financial management", and would deliver a £70m saving in the UK by the middle of 2010.

Decisions like these that affect our people are always difficult, but it is the right thing for our customers and our business
UK chief executive Adrian Brown
Mr Haste said: "We expect to face challenging conditions but are confident of delivering sustainable profits."

Unite's regional officer Martin McKeown said the union was "disappointed" with the cuts, adding: "We have been involved in consultation with the company and both parties remain committed to mitigating the consequences of this decision.

"Our immediate priority is to communicate with our representatives and members. We will oppose any compulsory redundancies."

The company can trace its history back almost 300 years. Its current structure was created in 1996 following the merger of two of the largest insurance companies in the UK, Royal Insurance and Sun Alliance. In 2008 its shortened its name to RSA.

With a market share of over 13% in the UK, it claims to be the country's largest commercial insurer and sells many of its policies through the MoreTh>n brand.

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RSA's UK chief executive Adrian Brown said: "I see exciting opportunities to continue to build and grow RSA. But key to this will be reducing our costs.

"The healthier our expense base is, the more competitively-priced our products and services become.

"Decisions like these that affect our people are always difficult, but it is the right thing for our customers and our business.

"Every support will be given to our colleagues to assist them finding new roles, either within the business or with other companies."

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