Standard Life makes last push for 'yes' vote

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The Independent Online

Standard Life, the Scottish life insurer, will make one last push tomorrow to win support for its forthcoming demutualisation, unveiling strong first-quarter profits and urging its members to vote in favour of its stock market listing at its Special General Meeting on Wednesday.

The group is expected to reveal profits in excess of £20m for the first three months of 2006 - a considerable improvement on the same period last year. The group made profits of just £33m in 2005, and is expected to more than double this in 2006.

Members will get their chance to vote on the demutualisation at the SGM in Edinburgh. The chief executive, Sandy Crombie, is hoping that at least one million of the company's 2.4 million members will vote. He will encourage members not just to back the stock market listing, but also to hold on to the shares they receive from the demutualisation, to prosper from the future success of the company.

Members are expected to receive an average windfall payout of £1,700 in shares. The exact size of payouts will depend on how long members have been customers and how much money they have invested with the group.

The management has made strong progress in turning around its flailing business over the past year, pulling away from unprofitable segments of the market and focusing on the most profitable business. Its self-invested personal pension (Sipp) business, which took more than £1bn in new money within just a few months of opening last year, has been one of the drivers behind the company.

The management needs the support of at least 75 per cent of all those that vote to demutualise. If it is successful, it will then look to float during the summer.

However, the board has been concerned about the market volatility of recent weeks and may be forced to postpone the listing for a few months if the UK market continues to lose ground over the coming weeks.

The FTSE 100 fell more than 10 per cent between the end of April and 22 May. Although it recovered slightly towards the end of last week, it is still down more than 5 per cent from its April peaks.

The company is expected to have a market value in the region of £5bn, placing it comfortably within the FTSE 100 index.