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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 January, 2004, 08:19 GMT
Standard Life considers flotation
Five pound notes
Standard Life has fought off two 'carpetbagging' attempts
Mutual life insurer Standard Life has said it might seek a stock market listing to raise money, as it tries to satisfy tough new UK solvency rules.

Sir Brian Stewart, chairman of Standard Life, said: "It is one possibility, looking forward to how we might restructure Standard Life."

The move would be an about-turn for the firm, which has twice rejected efforts by policyholders to demutualise it.

A listing would mean policyholders could be in line for windfall payouts.

Any move to demutualise would be likely to take up to two years. The company's 2.6 million with-profits policyholders could end up receiving windfalls of several thousand pounds each.

Listing on stock market being considered
Policyholders could expect windfalls of several thousand pounds
Review follows talks with regulator over solvency rules
Company maintains its finances are strong
A demutualisation campaigner previously estimated that payouts would average 2,400-3,000.

Standard Life said its plans were to raise 750m ($1.4bn) in "hybrid capital".

It also said Sandy Crombie, currently chief executive of Standard Life Investments, would take over as group chief executive from Iain Lumsden, who is retiring.

The decision to consider listing is part of a strategic review after talks with the Financial Services Authority over how to meet the new solvency requirements.

The FSA welcomed Standard Life's announcement of the review.

'Financially strong'

Standard Life's Sir Brian said: "We have to concentrate on long-term value for policyholders. We will be keeping them informed of what we are doing."

He said they were looking at all available options, and that included remaining a mutually owned company.

The company has always said it was "completely wrong" to suggest it was in financial difficulty, and reiterated on Tuesday that it was in a healthy financial position.

The group's accounts show that on 15 November its future funds appropriations - a key measure of solvency - were 4.5bn against 3.2bn a year earlier.

Available assets are currently 4.6bn, up 400m since November.

New rules

New solvency rules are being introduced by the FSA to ensure that investors have a clearer picture of the financial strength of insurers.

They were formulated in the aftermath of the near collapse of insurer Equitable Life in 2000.

Standard Life has fought off two attempts to end its mutual status.

The first came in 2000 from fund manager Fred Woollard, while an attempt by retired lecturer David Stonebanks was defeated last year.

BBC Scotland's Hayley Millar
"The move would mean windfalls for thousands of policyholders"

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01 Aug 03  |  Business

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