Tuesday 5 March 2019 10:43 pm

Insurer Phoenix on the hunt for deals after strong results

The boss of newly promoted FTSE 100 insurance company Phoenix said today he was keen to do further transactions following the £3bn purchase of Standard Life Assurance last year.

Phoenix chief executive Clive Bannister said: “We are open for business and very keen to do our next transaction but they do tend to be quite complicated and some can be large so you never know what’s going to happen.

“I don’t anticipate when red London buses will turn up but one will.”

Read more: Phoenix expects to beat cash targets as Standard Life deal nears close

The company, which will be promoted to the top tier index on 18 March, said yesterday its profit for the year to 31 December almost doubled, jumping from £368m in 2017 to £708m last year.

Phoenix, which is Europe’s largest owner of life assurance funds closed to new customers, boosted its proposed final dividend to 23.4p per share, a 3.5 per cent increase on the previous year.

It said it generated £664m of cash in 2018, up from £653m the previous year.

The company said it had generated £1.3bn in cash in 2017 and 2018, beating the upper end of its cash generation target of £1-£1.2bn for the period.

Phoenix increased its synergy target from the Standard Life Assurance acquisition to £1.22bn from a previous target of £720m.

Read more: The City pensions boss running around for retirees

Alongside its closed business, which focuses on buying life insurance books which are closed to new business and running them more efficiently, Phoenix has an open business, which writes new policies.

Phoenix it has £180bn of assets under management in its closed business with £85bn in its open business.

Bannister said in the future new business from its open book reach the stage where it could replace “run off” from its closed business.

“Were we to achieve that it would be fairly spectacular point of inflection,” he said.

Phoenix Group’s shares rose nearly 2.6 per cent yesterday to close at 724p.