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Retirement products and services business Just Group (LON: JUST) shares are trading higher on Thursday after the company said its 2020 performance was “pleasing” despite the challenging and uncertain backdrop of COVID-19.

The group’s retirement sales rose 12% for the year, down to a 22% increase in defined benefit de-risking.

Just said the defined benefit market remains “buoyant” and was the second-highest year for market transaction volumes, writing 23 transactions, with defined benefit de-risking sales in the second half of the year over £1 billion, a record six month for the group.

“The market for guaranteed income for life solutions has continued to recover following the COVID-19 related sales disruption in the first half of the year. Sales in the second half were similar to the second half of 2019,” said Just Group.

Guaranteed income for life sales was down 7% for the year, coming in at £637 million.

“This performance is particularly pleasing against the challenging and uncertain backdrop of COVID-19 that we faced during 2020,” commented David Richardson, Just Group’s CEO.

“As we head into 2021, supporting the welfare of our colleagues, providing outstanding service to our customers and distribution partners, and further improving the resilience of our capital position remain our top priorities. We have a strong pipeline of new business and we start the year with increased confidence,” added Richardson.

Just Group shares have gained 17% so far today, priced at 80.70p.

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