Standard Life sets float vote timetable

STANDARD Life policyholders will get the first opportunity to calculate their windfall from any demutualisation of the Edinburgh-based insurer on April 18.

In confirming the timetable that could eventually see the company throwing out its long-cherished mutual status, the proposal document will be published on the firm's website on April 18.

Voting and proposal packs will be dispatched to policyholders before the end of April, with the deadline for returning postal votes set for May 28.

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A vote will then take place on May 31 at a special general meeting at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, with 75 per cent of the eligible membership needing to vote for a demutualisation for any stock market listing - expected during the summer - to proceed.

Today, Standard Life confirmed that eligible members among its 2.4 million policyholders would receive a fixed allocation of shares from any public flotation. And it said that most eligible members would also qualify for an additional variable allocation of shares depending on "the size of their with-profits investments as at March 30, 2004 and the length of time those investments have been continuously invested in with-profits with Standard Life as at that date". For legal and practical reasons, overseas members are expected to receive cash.

The company has given no guidance on the size of any potential windfall, stating that it would depend on the level of the FTSE-100 - which the company would immediately be eligible to join with an expected valuation of between 4 billion and 6bn - at the time shares are to be distributed.

Analysts initially expected average pay-outs would be between 500 and 1000. But since Standard Life first confirmed its plans to go public last October, the FTSE-100 has jumped from 5500 to just under the 6000 level - around eight per cent, leading most analysts to believe the average pay-out could be nearer the upper end of the range.

A spokesman for Standard Life said a rise in the stock market "could lead to enhancement".

Any windfall would be paid "as soon as practical on or after the date of the demutualisation and flotation". Standard Life chairman Sir Brian Stewart said: "By the end of April, eligible members will receive a vote and proposal pack which will contain detailed information on our plans for demutualisation.

"Eligible members will also find details on how many shares they might receive and what these shares might be worth."

Sir Brian said the board was urging all eligible members to use their vote. "Every voting member has one vote and an equal say so each vote can make a difference. If you have a vote, please use it.

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"We believe that demutualisation and flotation will give eligible members their share in the value of the business, reduce with-profits investors' exposure to business risks and allow the company to access external equity capital. "The board of Standard Life continues to believe that demutualisation and flotation are in the best interests of members, policy- holders and our business."

Sir Brian said that upon any flotation the company would operate under the new parent group name of Standard Life plc and that post-flotation it "intends to raise new capital to support and develop the group's business".