With Angelique Ruzicka, finance editor

Shareholders appear to have absorbed the optimism of Ken Rooney, group managing director of Personal Group Holdings (PGH), this week when he said 2008 was “the most successful year ever” for new programmes and income generated. The group’s stocks jumped 10% to 225p per share.

Revenue for 2008 was up 2% to £26.8m from the £26.4m it posted in 2007. Underlying profit before tax was up slightly at £8.7m from £8.6m. Gross written premiums also lifted slightly to £16.3m from £16m in 2007. However, EBITDA (earnings before the deduction of interest, tax and amortisation) was down to £9.2m from £9.4m in 2007.

Christopher Johnston, the group’s chairman, said it had been a good year for new business production. “Our personal hospital plan and death benefit was 29% ahead of 2007. Voluntary group income protection was up 211%.”

However, PGH was not immune to the economic downturn and fall in interest rates. Its net investment income slumped to £508,000 from £848,000 the previous year.

Shareholders were paid 16.5p per share in dividends, an increase of 38% over 2007. The first quarterly dividend for this year was 4.15p. The company has promised identical amounts in June, September and December provided “business continues as expected”.

On the group’s prospects for 2009, Johnston said that current trading was in line with directors’ expectations.