GERMANY - Financial services firm MLP has parted company with its chief sales executive following weak sales of its occupational and private pensions during the second quarter.

The Heidelberg-based firm said last night that its supervisory board had terminated the employment of Eugen Bucher, board member in charge of sales, with immediate effect.

MLP chief executive Uwe Schroeder-Wildberg will take over Bucher's responsibilities until a replacement is found.

"We are not happy with the performance of our sales team, as we have not been able to realise the full market potential of pensions products. We are now several weeks behind our targets for the business," Schroeder-Wildberg said.

The weak pensions sales prompted MLP to issue a profit warning after the close of trading on German stock exchanges.

For the full year, it now expects to have pre-tax profit of €90m instead of €120m. In 2005, the firm had pre-tax profit of €71.1m. This excludes a charge of €2.4m that MLP took for building up its business in Switzerland.

Schroeder-Wildberg also said MLP had taken measures to improve the performance of its sales force, including notably, "focussing all activities on retirement provision".

"Despite the slump in the second quarter, we are convinced that MLP is on track for long-term growth," he added.

The sales slump comes a year and half after MLP decided to make pension products one of its core businesses. MLP's other businesses are financial advice for well-paid professionals like doctors and lawyers as well as supplementary health insurance.

In early 2005, MLP said it would double its share of the occupational pensions sales market to eight percent by 2010, adding that that the greatest potential lie with firms with less than 50 employees.

Late last May, MLP also said it was expanding its business ties with FERI, an investment consulting and wealth management firm. As a result, FERI is developing investment products that MLP will distribute to both private and institutional clients in Germany.

MLP also is considering taking a stake in FERI to cement the relationship and is to make an announcement on this before the end of 2006.