February 19, 2016 / 11:48 AM / 2 years ago

Standard Life sees benefits in Europe, prepares for possible Brexit

LONDON (Reuters) - Clients of British insurer and asset manager Standard Life would gain from continued access to Europe’s single market, its CEO said on Friday, adding that the company is making contingency plans for Britain’s possible EU exit.

A worker walks inside the Standard Life House in Edinburgh, Scotland February 27, 2014. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Prime Minister David Cameron argued for much of Thursday night in Brussels with European Union partners determined to limit concessions on offer to help to keep Britain in the 28-member bloc.

Britain’s position in Europe makes it easier to sell funds to investors across the region.

“It would be in the best interests of customers and clients that we continued to benefit from access to the single market,” Chief Executive Keith Skeoch said in a media call.

Skeoch stopped short of expressing a view whether or not Britain should stay in the EU, emphasising that Standard Life is a non-political organisation, but he confirmed that the company has been making contingency plans for a possible “Brexit”.

“It’s deeply, deeply technical stuff that’s associated with the running of our funds,” he said.

Standard Life earlier reported a 9 percent rise in 2015 pretax operating profit to 665 million pounds ($952.01 million), beating expectations in a company-supplied forecast.

Assets under administration rose 4 percent to 307.4 billion pounds.

‘CHOPPY MARKETS’

Edinburgh-headquartered Standard Life has been increasing its focus on flexible drawdown pensions and its asset management arm, rather than traditional insurance products such as annuities, which give pensioners a fixed income for life.

After a volatile few months, markets are likely to remain difficult, Skeoch said.

“Markets are driven by geopolitics. That probably means they will remain choppy for a while yet,” he said, adding that while some equity markets look good value on a three to five-year basis, none are a “screaming buy”.

Standard Life said it had a solvency capital ratio of 162 percent of the minum requirement under new European rules and that the company would pay a total dividend of 18.36 pence per share, up nearly 8 percent on the previous year.

A solvency ratio of 100 percent means that an insurer has set aside enough capital to meet underwriting, investment and operational risks.

Standard Life shares were up 1.2 percent at 343 pence at 0929 GMT and JP Morgan Cazenove reiterated its overweight rating on the stock after what it described as a strong set of results.

($1 = 0.6985 pounds)

Editing by Rachel Armstrong and David Goodman

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