Standard Life International could aid Phoenix expansion in Europe

Irish unit had previously been slated for sale

Phoenix now has £1.4 billion (€1.65 billion) which could be available for deals, the company said. Photograph: IStock

Phoenix now has £1.4 billion (€1.65 billion) which could be available for deals, the company said. Photograph: IStock

 

London-listed insurance group Phoenix Group could use its Standard Life International operation in the Republic to expand in Europe, after deciding not to sell the business.

Phoenix had planned to sell both Standard Life International and Ark Life, which it also owned, but only a deal for Ark Life was finalised, with Irish Life agreeing last month to buy the manager of pensions, savings and protection policies for €230 million. Irish Life’s Canadian parent, Great-West Lifeco, had for a time been expected to take over Standard Life International too.

Phoenix boss Andy Briggs confirmed on Wednesday that Phoenix would now keep Standard Life International, which has operations in Germany as well as the Republic, following a review, and could use it as a base for expansion in Europe.

Phoenix bought the life insurance arm of Standard Life Aberdeen for £3.24 billion (€3.73 billion) in 2018, a year after the latter was established via a merger to form one of the world’s largest asset managers.

Phoenix moved billions of euro of policies from its Standard Life Assurance unit in the UK to Standard Life International in Dublin in order to be able to continue to serve customers in the European Union post-Brexit.

Standard Life International’s assets under management grew from €6.85 billion to €28.8 billion in 2019, mainly as a result of the transfer, according to its latest set of accounts filed with the Companies Registration Office. It created the second-largest life company in the Republic as a result, after Irish Life.

No hurry

Mr Briggs said on Wednesday the group is looking to grow its business but is in no hurry for acquisitions. He was speaking after the life insurer missed first-half profit forecasts.

Phoenix specialises in buying up books of life-insurance business closed to new customers and using economies of scale to manage them more efficiently.

However, after buying the Standard Life brand from Abrdn, formerly Standard Life Aberdeen, in February, Phoenix will also look to develop its open books, chief executive Mr Briggs said.

“We would consider larger or smaller businesses, we will consider open books or closed,” he said.

First-half operating profit at Phoenix rose 46 per cent to £527 million, below £539 million in a company-compiled consensus poll. – Additional reporting: Reuters