Insurer Standard Life beat expectations with a seven per cent drop in sales during 2009, as a market recovery during the second half helped soften the impact of crisis-hit UK consumers cutting back on savings.
Standard Life, Britain's fifth-biggest insurer by market value and the first to detail sales for the full year, said it saw "good momentum" as it moved into 2010, despite an uncertain environment, and outlined "good prospects" for its UK arm. The insurer said yesterday that life and pensions sales for the 12 months totalled £14.7 billion (Dh86.31bn). Analysts had expected sales of £13.8bn, according to the average of 13 analyst estimates compiled by the company.
In the UK, its core market, sales dropped 10 per cent to £10.1bn, again above forecasts.
"It's a very good kick-off to the UK life reporting season, and I think there may be a positive read-across for Aviva on Thursday. The UK was really quite strong," insurance analyst Kevin Ryan at ING in London said.
"Sipp [self-invested personal pensions] and group pensions are both strong – stronger than anticipated – and that's positive, it shows people are back in the market," he added.
In the fourth quarter alone, life and pensions sales for the group totalled £4.2bn, up 29 per cent year-on-year. Net inflows, which include the group's Asian joint ventures and its Hong Kong subsidiary for the first time, remained stable at £2.7bn in 2009. Excluding the impact of a decision not to renew lower margin UK bulk investment deals, net inflows were up 57 per cent at £3.2bn for the year.
Standard Life saw a drop in its European business, with sales down 24 per cent, but Canada rose 16 per cent and Asia 30 per cent. The group said Europe remained a "tough" environment, but expected good performance from Canada and "opportunities" for its Asian business.
Standard Life's long-time boss Sandy Crombie announced his intention to step down last year, and has been replaced by finance director David Nish. Analysts have said they do not expect a change of direction from Nish.
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