Tuesday 27 March 2012 by John Hyde

One of the UK's leading legal expenses insurers has predicted a 'difficult' coming year despite an impending move into the legal profession.

Abbey Protection today reported 2011 pre-tax profits of £10.1m - 5% up on the previous year. The company had expected by now to have obtained a licence to become an alternative business structure (ABS) and to have expanded its in-house service and bought an equity stake in a law firm.

Chief executive Colin Davison admitted he was 'disappointed' to be one of dozens of companies still waiting on the Solicitors Regulation Authority to grant its licence.

Chairman Tony Shearer said it will be important to take advantage of new opportunities when they come, as the outlook for Abbey's small business customers was not improving.

He said: 'UK-based small businesses have faced pressures on their employment levels and taxable income for two consecutive years and we anticipate that these pressures will be present throughout 2012.' The company increased total revenue from £34.9m in 2010 to £36.2m in 2011, during which time its share price rose by 10%.

Meanwhile, the SRA today confirmed it is not yet ready to announce the first successful ABS application almost three months after the process opened.

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