NORWAY -  Financial giant, Storebrand saw a 279% growth for group pension insurance in the fourth quarter, bringing the group's full-year profit to NOK1.6bn (€198m), up from NOK1.45bn a year before.

Storebrand said that the increase in sales was due to strong sales of mandatory pension products, which only began life last year.

Since then, 15,500 companies have arranged such schemes through Storebrand with over 8,000 contracts being sold in the fourth quarter alone. Currently, 180,000 employees are members of the insurer's pension schemes.

Nevertheless, the profit for Storebrand Life was NOK1.2bn, slightly down on the 2005 figure of NOK1.22bn. This was partly due to additional costs incurring in connection with the opening of the Swedish branch office and the introduction of mandatory occupational pension products.

Furthermore, Storebrand saw a strong outflow in personal annuity and pension insurance products of 86% over the last year. This decline reflects "the government's proposal to abolish the right to offset contributions to individual pension contracts against tax," Storebrand stated.

A strong performance for 2006 was filed by the group's asset management business which increased its profit by 85% to NOK156m.

Storebrand attributed that increase to "better than benchmark investment performance of funds and discretionary portfolios under management".

Storebrand Investments had NOK217bn in assets under management at year-end, an NOK12bn increase over 2006.