Standard Life boosted by pension worries

Scottish firm set for encouraging results after a year of rule changes
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The Independent Online

It may not be a stand-out moment amid all the activity of the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe, but this Wednesday sees one of Scotland's biggest financial service providers unveil first-half figures that are expected to point to a brighter future.

Standard Life, established in 1825, is expected to present an upbeat picture as more and more people are forced to come to it to build up their long-term savings to counter falling state pensions.

It has spent much of this year preparing itself for the Government's auto-enrolment scheme which forces all employees to have pensions and the retail distribution review (RDR) which will be implemented by the end of this year making costs and charges to consumers for savings products far more visible.

It is likely that the chief executive, David Nish, will declare that having sorted auto-enrolment during the first quarter, Standard Life has now put in the major building blocks for new products to fulfil the RDR requirements in place in the second. Analysts believe the Scottish firm could emerge as a major beneficiary of these radical structural changes in the market.

Mr Nish is also expected to indicate that inflows of funds from both retail savers and corporate pension funds started to grow during the latest quarter and will grow more rapidly during the second half.

Analysts are looking for a 3 per cent fall in operating profits for the first half with the more widely followed embedded value profit rising by 6 per cent to £399m. A modest increase in assets under management by around 3 per cent to £204bn.

Expectations are that the interim dividend will be increased by 5 per cent to 4.85p a share. Prospects for the second half should be enhanced as tough cost cutting measures which saw almost 1,000 jobs cut in 2011 begin to work through.

Standard Life has one of the largest shareholder bases among FTSE 100 companies. Almost all its 1.5 million private shareholders were those who received free shares when it demutualised six years ago.

They have not had the easiest of rides since the shares were floated at 230p in July 2006 and closed at 256p – a mere 11 per cent gain in six years – on Friday.