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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 January, 2004, 15:15 GMT
Standard Life 'mulls share float'
Five pound notes
Are Standard Life policyholders in line for a windfall?
Mutual life insurer Standard Life is considering floating on the stock exchange, according to reports.

The move follows the news that it is talking to the UK's financial watchdog over how its balance sheet will be affected by new accounting measures.

If Standard Life does decide to demutualise, it could lead to windfall payments for the firm's 2.6 million policyholders.

A spokesman for the company declined to comment on the reports.

"Our position remains that we will continue with mutuality as long as we think it is the right thing for our with-profits policyholders," a Standard Life spokesman told BBC News Online.

"If there was any reason they would be better off with a different corporate structure we would communicate that clearly to our with-profits policyholders," he added.


Both the Observer and Sunday Times said a flotation was being considered as a way of raising extra capital.

Other options reportedly being considered are raising money through a bond issues or a demerger of the firm's American subsidiaries.

On Thursday, it emerged that the Financial Services Authority (FSA) was in talks with Standard Life over how its balance sheet would be affected by new rules.

Some press reports had suggested the company's core capital base could be more than halved, which could lead to lower bonuses for its with-profit policyholders.

However, a company spokesman insisted on Thursday that it was "completely wrong" to suggest the firm was 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.

Mutual battle

Standard Life has already 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.

However, earlier this month Mr Stonebanks said he had collected enough signatures from policyholders to call a special general meeting to discuss the company's status.

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