Canada boost for Standard Life earnings

STANDARD Life beat expectations to record a 28 per cent increase in its earnings for 2011, helped by cost cutting and a strong performance from its Canadian unit.

The Edinburgh-based firm, Britain’s fifth-biggest insurer, made a pre-tax operating profit of £544m last year, up from £425m.

Profits rose 70 per cent at its Canadian division and there was a £64m gain from changes to its UK staff pension scheme.

The company also managed to boost its dividend by 6.2 per cent to 13.8p, well ahead of expectations.

Despite this the firm hinted that new business growth had been sluggish in early 2012 and observers said there was limited room for growth.

“Today’s results again demonstrate that we are well on track to transform the operational and financial performance of Standard Life. We are well positioned to benefit from market changes and the new regulatory environment,” said chief executive David Nish.

Marcus Barnard, an analyst at Oriel Securities, said the results were better than expected but added that he continues to see “a fairly weak investment case” as the firm is carrying a lot of new business that has yet to prove its profitability.

Its shares closed up 0.3 per cent.