Bright debut for Standard Life shares

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Standard Life policyholders saw the value of their newly-held shares rise today after the insurer made a bright start to life on the stock market.

The shares opened at 230p and quickly rose to 245p before settling at 241p, a rise of 5%.

Today's dealings end a two-year process for Standard Life which culminated in members voting in May to end more than 80 years as a mutual company.

The group, which was valued at £4.65 billion at the start of trading today, will earn a place in the FTSE 100 Index through the flotation. The average value of shares issued to Standard's 2.4 million policyholders was set at £1,475 on Friday night.

The 230p placing was much lower than the range of 240p to 290p indicated by Standard Life in the spring. Last month the company lowered the estimated range to 210p to 270p because of recent stock market volatility.

But the price has been pushed up from the bottom end of the range by strong demand from retail investors.

The flotation included an offer enabling members and eligible customers to buy shares at a 5% discount.

Amid concern that policyholders will sell their shares, Standard has offered one bonus share for every 20 held continuously for a full year after flotation.

The share offer has raised £1.1 billion of new capital for the group, which began looking at the possibility of demutualising in early 2004.