Standard Life to be priced towards bottom of range

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The Independent Online

Standard Life members who rushed to beat yesterday's 10am deadline to register for shares before the Scottish mutual assurer's float on Monday are likely to find them priced at between 220p and 230p each at issue.

That is close to the bottom end of the latest estimated price range of between 210p and 270p. In April, Merrill Lynch and UBS, advisers to the Edinburgh-based Standard Life, suggested the shares could fetch as much as 290p each.

A final decision on the issue price will be taken tomorrow. They change hands for the first time on Monday in the biggest stock market flotation London has seen since 2000.

The more modest issue price will value Standard Life at about £4.7bn and deliver an average windfall to its 2.4 million members of nearer £1,450 than the £1,700 that had been hoped for.

Customers also had the chance to buy shares at a discount of up to 10 per cent to the issue price and will be awarded a loyalty bonus of one share for every 20 they hold if they keep them for a year.

Unsettled markets have forced Standard Life, determined to press ahead with flotation, to curb the price it demands for its shares to ensure an appetite for them from big City investors.

Other, smaller, companies including the cinema group Cineworld and the investment vehicle Braveheart, recently put plans to list on hold.

Sentiment towards insurers has been harder hit than the wider market recently. Aviva's merger approach to Prudential in March lifted hopes for consolidation across the insurance industry, as did Standard Life's admission that it had received a merger approach, widely believed to have come from Resolution Life. Since then, merger hopes have faded.

Although Standard Life looks set to trade at a discount to others in the sector, it will claim a place in the FTSE 100.

City bookmakers are tipping the shares to rise modestly on Monday. Angus Campbell, a market strategist at Finspreads, expects them to close at between 235p and 245p after the first day's trading. "Standard is an important financial stock that fund managers will want in their portfolios. When it enters the FTSE 100 then the index trackers will have to buy too," he said.

In May, 98 per cent of Standard Life's voting members backed the decision of the chief executive, Sandy Crombie, to demutualise.

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