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Standard Life profits plunge

<div>STANDARD&nbsp;Life yesterday admitted it has joined the ranks of insurers struggling in the recession, stating its pre-tax profits were down 86 per cent in the first half as consumers cut their pension savings.<br /><br />The group said markets remained &ldquo;challenging&rdquo;, as it unveiled an underlying pre-tax profit drop from &pound;345m in the first half of 2008 to &pound;47m this year, far below average analyst expectations of &pound;122m.<br /><br />Sir Sandy Crombie, who is stepping down as chairman this year after five years in the role, said: &ldquo;The recession has had an inevitable impact on our performance in the first half of 2009.&rdquo;<br /><br />In the first-half, the firm said sales fell by 17 per cent, reflecting a market-driven decline in the value of new customers&rsquo; pension pots.<br /><br />Standard Life reported profits, under the European Embedded Value method that takes into account future returns on insurance, of &pound;348m, 35 per cent down on a year ago.<br /><br />But the firm said its capital buffers remain strong, holding &pound;3.1bn as of the end of June, only slightly down on the &pound;3.3bn held at the end of last year.<br /><br />It said it was paying an interim dividend of 4.15p per share, an increase of two per cent, in line with the average analyst forecast of 4.16p.</div>