Standard Life books hike in profits

Standard Life topped city forecasts today with a 9 per cent rise in operating profits last year helped by a double digit jump in assets under administration.

Standard Life chief executive Keith Skeoch. Picture: Graham Flack

Shareholders in the Edinburgh-based pensions and investment group are in line for an 8 per cent rise in dividends following the performance, continuing a ten-year track record of payout increases.

But the figures included a £175 million compensation provision following the Financial Conduct Authority’s review of annuity sales last year.

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Chief executive Keith Skeoch, who received a total pay package of £2.75m last year, said the company continued to make good progress towards creating a “world-class investment company”.

“Despite industry headwinds, we are benefiting from our strengthening global brand and strong long-term relationships with a well diversified range of clients and customers,” he said.

“We are already seeing the benefits of targeted investments to further our diversification agenda, including the success of our newer investment solutions, and the sharpened focus on operational efficiency. This increased pace of strategic delivery will ensure that we continue to meet changing client and customer needs, and generate growing and sustainable returns for our shareholders.”

The company increased assets under administration by 16 per cent to £357.1 billion and operating profits before tax rose 9 per cent to £723m.

Eamonn Flanagan of Shore Capital, which has a “hold” rating on the shares, said there was “a mix of some good bits and some not so good” in the results.

He highlighted positives including dividend growth, improved margins at investment arm SLI and the strengthening balance sheet with negatives including the £175m hit.

“The whole tone of this statement reflects a company which seems to be fully focused on asset gathering and asset management, after a brief flirtation with a parallel focus on life assurance,” he said.