(Adds CEO, CFO comments, details, share rise)
By Noor Zainab Hussain
Sept 21 Britain's shock vote to leave the
European Union has not dented demand for holidays among Britons
over 50 years old, travel and insurance firm Saga said
Saga, which offers ocean and river cruises, singles holidays
and escorted tours, said a poll of its travel customers showed
99 percent of them were not reconsidering their holiday plans
because of the June 23 vote to leave the bloc.
Chief Executive Officer Lance Batchelor said Saga's clients,
most of whom live off retirement funds, plan well in advance and
were not likely to change their behaviour quickly.
"They are a tough bunch. They love to travel. If you talked
to Saga customers as they approached retirement and asked them
what they plan to spend their time on, the answer will very
often be lots of travel," Batchelor said.
"Because they have at least 50 years of life experience,
they are less likely to panic when things happen around the
world. They want to carry on travelling, they are really brave
and intrepid," he said.
Saga, which has already achieved the majority of its holiday
sales for the current year, reported an 8.5 percent rise in
first-half pretax profit from continuing operations to 109.9
million pounds ($142.6 million), beating a consensus forecast
supplied by the company of 99 million pounds.
Recent attacks in Tunisia, Egypt and France and Turkey,
coupled with a hit to sterling from the Brexit vote, have
dampened demand for travel by Britons.
But Saga's customers have only changed course over their
preferred travel destinations, the company said.
"Events that have happened over the last 12 months in
Turkey, Egypt and in some North African countries have certainly
led to a lower level of demand there," Chief Financial Officer
Jonathan Hill told Reuters.
"We see certainly good demand for our Asian, Caribbean and
South American destinations," he said.
The company, which listed on the London Stock Exchange in
May 2014, raised its interim dividend 23 percent to stick to its
payout target of 50-70 percent of net earnings.
On the new European capital rules for insurers that came
into effect in January, Saga reported a Solvency II ratio of 196
percent, well above minimum capital requirements of 100 percent.
Shares in Saga were up 1.5 percent at 225 pence at 0941 GMT.
($1 = 0.7707 pounds)
(Editing by Simon Jessop and David Clarke)