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Sun Life of Canada flotation to benefit UK policyholders

More than 250,000 UK policyholders with Sun Life of Canada (Sloc) are set for a windfalls that could be worth at least pounds 1,000, it emerged yesterday after the company's announcement that it plans to float. Sloc, a mutual insurer, yesterday said it was developing plans to list on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 1999, distributing shares to all eligible policyholders.

John D McNeil, chairman and chief executive of Sun Life of Canada, said: "Management believes de-mutualisation can provide significant benefits to our 1 million participating policyholders world-wide. Becoming a publicly traded company can provide substantial value for our policyholders and unlock our capital base."

The decision reflects a growing trend in Canada and Australia to de-mutualise. Manulife, Canada's largest life insurer, has already announced plans to float. The Australian giant AMP has also decided to de-mutualise following last year's successful flotation of its rival, Colonial.

Although Sloc has 600,000 policyholders in the UK, only holders of with- profits policies will be eligible for windfalls.

Sloc, which is unconnected to its Bristol-based rival Sun Life, has assets under management of C$174bn (pounds 73bn) and a surplus of C$5.5bn (pounds 2.3bn).

In a separate development, Michael Hardern, the self-styled "carpetbagger- in-chief", yesterday fell at the first hurdle trying to force a flotation at Britannia Building Society. Gerald Gregory, director of mutuality and marketing at Britannia, said Mr Hardern applied two weeks too late to take part in elections to the board of directors.