Friends Provident is poised to strike a deal for Tesco to sell its life assurance and other protection policies.

Friends announced the deal yesterday alongside a 40 per cent year-on-year drop in its life and pensions sales, the result of a drive to focus on higher-margin products. “We have significantly broadened our distribution capabilities with an agreement in principle to provide protection products with Tesco Personal Finance, a very exciting development,” said Trevor Matthews, Friends’ chief executive. “We are very much back in business in group pensions, winning 20 schemes in the quarter.”

Total life and pensions sales in the first three months of this year fell to the equivalent of £109 million in new annual premiums, including £90.6 million in the UK, a 45per cent drop.