Standard Life profits rise ahead of £11bn Aberdeen Asset Management merger

Emma Haslett
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The company is preparing for an £11bn tie-up with Aberdeen Asset Management (Source: Getty)

Profits rose six per cent in the first half as Standard Life readied itself for its £11bn merger with Aberdeen Asset Management, but shares fell as it admitted outflows had increased.

The figures

Pre-tax operating profit rose six per cent to £362m in the six months to the end of June, driven by a 13 per cent increase in profit excluding spread and risk.

Fee-based revenues rose five per cent to £836m, while assets under administration rose one per cent to £361.9bn.

However, net outflows rose to £3.7bn, from £900m last year, driven by £5.4bn of net outflows from its Global Absolute Return Strategies fund.

But that didn't prevent it from hiking its dividend by 8.2 per cent to 7p.

Shares were down 1.6 per cent at 436.1p in early trading.

Read more: Next global downturn will be 'onerous', warns Standard Life economist

Why it's interesting

At the end of last month Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management were given the go-ahead to take the next step on their £11bn merger, which will create Aberdeen Standard Life Investments and have £670bn of assets under management.

To clear the way for the merger, designed to ward off the threat from passive funds, Standard Life has promised to sell its £16.1bn annuity book.

Once the deal, is completely cleared by competition authorities, expected to be on 14 August, a number of decisions will come under scrutiny, not least the decision to have two chief executives.

"The outlook for investment houses is always pretty much the same – risks and opportunities in equal measure," said Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital.

"Standard Life noted optimism in financial markets has increased, although any look at equity indices will tell you that.

"The biggest risk is the structural issue facing the sector from passive funds... The results today reveal the pressure that active fund managers are under from low-cost competitors. Heft, which it will have, is going to be necessary for this Scottish investment powerhouse."

What Standard Life said

Keith Skeoch, its chief executive, said:

We continue to see the benefits of targeted investments to further our diversification agenda, the success of our newer investment solutions and the ongoing focus on operational efficiency. This has allowed us to grow assets, profits, cash flows and returns to shareholders.

Read more: Standard Life and Aberdeen keep it fair on new investment committee

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