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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 January, 2004, 10:59 GMT
Standard Life in regulator talks
Standard Life
Standard Life has been in talks with the FSA
The UK's main financial regulator has confirmed it has been talking to insurer Standard Life about the firm's balance sheet.

Reports have suggested the group is in danger of missing new minimum solvency levels when new accounting rules come into effect later this year.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) said there had been "a high level of engagement" between them.

Standard Life insisted it was not in any financial difficulty.

A spokesman for the firm, which reported a 22% fall in new worldwide business sales in 2003, said the talks were merely advisory.

More clarity

"Our financial strength is displayed in our company's act and statutory accounts," he said.

"And we remain committed to retaining a strong capital base."

The spokesman added: "It is completely wrong to suggest Standard Life is in financial difficulty."

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

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

Industry wide

Merrill Lynch insurance analyst David Nisbet said he did not believe the larger insurers would be affected by the forthcoming new accountancy rules.

"The large listed companies - Aviva, Legal & General and Prudential - are stronger financially than Standard Life in our view and we do not anticipate that they will have problems with the new regulations," he said.

In addition to speculation regarding its balance sheet, Standard Life has also recently faced pressure from some policy holders for it to demutualise and become a public company, thus entitling them to a windfall payment.

The company has fought all such moves.

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