Budget has lost out to an Australian financial services group in the race to buy insurance intermediary Hastings Insurance Services.

Insurance Times has learned that a deal between Budget and Hastings was imminent, but faltered at the last minute.

One source close to Budget said:

"The deal was pretty much ready to be agreed four to five weeks ago, but the transfer of certain products, and in particular the rating of certain products, meant the deal fell through."

Another broker said: "We thought the sale had gone through, but it seems to have fallen at the last hurdle."

However, Budget has firmly denied reports that it, along with Norwich Union (NU) and Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA), was in line to buy Hastings.

Peter Winslow, Budget's group chief executive comments: "At this time we are not in the process of acquiring any other business.

"We are, however, always interested in potential acquisitions and have substantial funding in place, should it be required."

An announcement is expected on the Australian Stock Exchange shortly about the sale of Hastings, which trades as Hastings Direct.

David Gundlach, chairman and managing director, is understood to have shown the unnamed owners around the company's offices last week as the sale was announced to certain managers.

However, Hastings would not comment on the sale, which it described as "market speculation".