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Saga shares slump to record low as profits slip

One of the county's major employers has confirmed a "fundamental shift in strategy" after a drop in its profits sent its share price to an all time low.

The announcement this morning by over-50s insurance and travel firm Saga of its preliminary financial results for the year ended January 31, saw its share price hit a low of 65p at one point - a drop of almost 40% - before it started a slow recovery.

The company, which is based in Folkestone and has offices in Thanet, revealed a 5.4% fall in underlying profits to £180million - and forecast profits to fall for the current year to between £105m and £120m.

Saga saw its shares slump to a record low today
Saga saw its shares slump to a record low today

It comes after the firm announced job losses at its Kent offices in December.

Shareholders will see their dividend payout slashed by more than 55% from 9p a share to 4p.

It marked the value of the company down £310million.

Saga's call centre in Thanet
Saga's call centre in Thanet

Lance Batchelor, group chief executive officer, said: "Over recent years Saga has faced increasing challenges from the commoditisation of the markets in which we operate, especially in insurance.

"This has had an impact on both customer numbers and profitability.

"The long-term challenges we face and the results demonstrate that Saga cannot grow without a clearly differentiated offering to its customers.

The Saga building in Sandgate
The Saga building in Sandgate

"In response, we are launching a fundamental change to the group's strategy to return the whole business to its heritage as an organisation that offers differentiated products and services.

"This will give our customers and members a compelling reason to come to us and stay with us."

Key steps will be a "new approach" to insurance and boosting its travel offering.

Sir Roger De Haan sold the Saga Group in 2004 for £1.35billion
Sir Roger De Haan sold the Saga Group in 2004 for £1.35billion

The CEO added: "The changes we are making are essential to address the long-term challenges facing our business.

"They will support future growth in customers and profits, and generate attractive cash flows for Saga."

The company was founded by Sidney De Haan in 1951. His son, Roger, sold the company in 2004 for an estimated £1.35bn, in a management buy-out.

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