£300m Standard Life shares go unclaimed

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The Independent Online

Almost 300,000 policyholders of Standard Life have failed to claim free shares worth an average value of £970, a month after the insurer demutualised and floated on the stock market.

Standard said yesterday that around 350,000 policyholders had failed to register for their free share allocations in the run up to the company's stock market debut on 10 July. Since then, about 50,000 policyholders have come forward, but roughly 12.5 per cent of the 2.4 million Standard members eligible to receive free shares have still to make a claim.

Under the terms of the demutualisation, Standard members have 10 years - until 10 July 2016 - to claim the free shares, which are to be held by the company in the Unclaimed Asset Trust. Dividends paid on the shares will be added to the trust and paid out when customers claim their allocation.

In 10 years' time, Standard is entitled to use any remaining unclaimed shares for "general corporate purposes", including charitable donations. However, Barry Cameron, a spokesman for Standard, said the insurer would continue its efforts to attempt to identify shareholders who have not claimed their entitlements. "We intend to launch another round of communications in four weeks or so, once the holiday season has come to an end."

However, the number of members who have failed to claim is broadly in line with the take-up of windfalls in previous demutualisations. When the insurer Norwich Union demutualised in 1997, about 17 per cent of members initially failed to claim their shares. In the case of the Friends Provident demutualisation in 2001, the figure was 10 per cent, while 8 per cent of Halifax members initially failed to claim their windfalls in the UK's biggest even demutualisation in 1995.

Standard's Unclaimed Assets Trust holds shares representing about 4.5 per cent of the insurer's total market capitalisation.