Martin Flanagan: AAM heads towards merger with more poise

If you are heading towards the stage exit as an independent business, there are worse ways to do it than with an improving financial performance.

Aberdeen Asset Management chief Martin Gilbert. Picture: Ian Rutherford

It suggests, even if only subtly, that the merger deal you have decided on is not a rescue bid but a strategic development; that you could have weathered the storm and continued to shift for yourself, but decided that would not be the best course and there are greater and faster gains through a corporate marriage.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

That is Aberdeen Asset Management’s (AAM) somewhat happier position after much more solid interim results yesterday ahead of the expected closure of its £11 billion merger deal with Edinburgh-based life insurer Standard Life next September.

The Aberdeen fund manager has had a torrid three or four years since emerging markets fell out of favour, its prime strategic and geographical focus. Net outflows of clients have become somewhat endemic, and confidence was shaken. The latest results help to redress that negative picture, while not necessarily consigning it to history.

Of course, one can’t assume say all the turbulence is over for those markets. Is it a recovery or a positive blip, helped by cost-cutting? And electoral uncertainty from the UK to France and Germany, not to mention the Trump effect, could interfere with the group’s apparent improved momentum.

But latest figures offer hope of better times for AAM, with profits up a fifth, net outflows slowing down notably between Q1 and Q2, revenues up and the dividend held. Assets under management grew to £308 biooion from £292.8bn a year ago. It does not look like a listing ship that had to be bailed out by Standard Life. The merger should give the two groups a more diversified business model.

Banking on mum and dad

So, the Bank of Mum and Dad is now unofficially the UK’s ninth-biggest “mortgage lender”, with contributions to their offspring’s search for a place of their own rising 30 per cent this year to £6.5bn as house prices continue to go only one way.

It is an inevitable social and economic development given the generational backcloth. How strange all those old smug dinner party conversations about people’s properties increasing in value now sound. There was a twist in the tale.