Equitable Life, the oldest life assurance company in the world, is considering placing itself in the shop window as the next stage in its bid to recover to full health.

Equitable believes that it has now reached the key point in its recovery from almost going out of existence in 2000, to consider its long term future and the best course to continue to serve members’ interests.

Charles Thomson, chief executive of the assurer, said that Equitable was now enjoying its most ‘stable and secure’ period since it nearly collapsed five years ago, and that the time was right to carry out a strategic review to determine its next forward step.

The objective is to try and see if we can find a strategy to improve prospects for policyholders and give them potential upside, the FT reported Thomson as saying. However, industry analysts believe that the old mutual assurer, despite recovering ground, is still not an attractive option for a buyer.

If Equitable does not find a buyer or chooses not to sell, Mr Thomson said that it had two other options: stay as it was or look at unitizing the with-profits fund, which would involve 75% of policyholders giving up their 3.5% guaranteed bonus rates.

Meanwhile, Thomson has revealed that the society’s recovering health has enabled it to issue bonuses for 2004 UK with-profits policies of 3.5% from 2% in 2003, while UK life policy bonuses of 1.5% to 2.8%.