The UK watchdog for the financial services industry, the FSA, has agreed in principle to HHG's sales of its closed life insurance business to entrepreneur Hugh Osmond led Closed Life Investor Group.

The deal, worth GBP1.07 billion, is still subject to various conditions and to completion of a formal decision process, but HHG expects the FSA change of control procedure to be finalized by April 12.

The FSA conditional approval comes about a month later than expected and will mean that HHG shareholders will have to wait for their share of the GBP875 million payout pool generated by the sale. This is because the court hearing for the return of cash to shareholders, originally scheduled for April 8, will now be pushed back by about a week.

Commenting on the approvals, HHG chief executive officer Roger Yates said: Now that these agreements have been secured we hope to move swiftly to complete the sale and separate the businesses.