Standard Life pays special dividend after profits soar

 

Standard Life has revealed a surge in profits that allows it to pay a one-off £302m windfall to investors. Those investors include tens of thousands who were customers of the formerly mutual insurance company when it joined the stock market in 2006 at a price of 230p.

They got "free" shares in return for giving up mutuality, but it has not always looked like a good deal since then with the company struggling to find its feet and the shares going nowhere helpful, at least until last year.

David Nish, the chief executive, was yesterday able to announce a special dividend and offer strong vindication of his approach, which has been to be "reassuringly boring".

Operating profits for 2012 jumped 65 per cent to £900m, and funds under management soared by nearly £20bn to £218bn. While rivals such as Aviva and Prudential have looked to overseas ventures to expand, Standard Life has remained focussed on its core UK market.

The profits were well ahead of City analysts' forecasts, with some of them remaining sceptical about its long-term prospects.

James Pearce at UBS regards the shares as a sell, claiming they are worth only 270p, compared with a closing price yesterday of 373p, down 1.2p. The special dividend of 12.8p a share comes on top of the regular payout of 14.7p.

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