Standard Life makes gains after float

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The Independent Online

Standard Life delivered its first trading update as a public company yesterday, cheering investors with a solid rise in sales in the first six months of this year.

The Edinburgh-based life assurer revealed that sales across the world were 17 per cent higher at £745m, comfortably surpassing its own forecasts.

In the UK, life and pensions sales were up 25 per cent to £594m as savers took advantage of the Government's "A-day" pension reforms, which made it easier to save for retirement. Sales of more profitable Self Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs) and products that allow customers to draw income from SIPPs jumped 75 per cent to £105m.

Standard Life Investments attracted £3.1bn more funds than were withdrawn, despite the turbulence that has buffeted stock markets this year.

Alison Reed, Standard Life's finance director, said: "We are very much on the road to repositioning the business in the sector. Clearly, as a public company, we believe we have a lot of potential and a great brand."

Industry experts declared Standard Life's performance in Britain, which accounts for about 80 per cent of its sales, encouraging but expressed disappointment at overseas sales. Roman Cizdyn, an analyst at Oriel Securities, said: "In the UK, the restructuring is in place and appears to be working on the basis of sales. It was a pretty good performance. But the international business has been a bit slow, in Germany and Canada."

The company, led by chief executive Sandy Crombie, raised £1.1bn last month in one of the biggest flotations in London for years. Its shares, floated at 230p, edged up 2.5p to 252.5p yesterday, valuing Britain's fifth biggest insurer at about £5.3bn.

Before the float, Mr Crombie cut thousands of jobs at Standard Life to improve profitability. The group will post full details of earnings next month.

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