(Adds CEO comment, details)
By Richa Naidu
LONDON Aug 5 Edinburgh-based insurance and
pensions group Standard Life Plc reiterated concerns that
a vote next month for Scotland's independence could create
economic and financial risks and said it was sticking to plans
to move operations out if necessary.
Standard Life, which has so far been one of the most
outspoken Scottish firms about issues around independence, drew
up detailed contingency plans in May to potentially move some
operations out of Scotland to protect itself from upheaval if
Scots voted in favour of splitting from the United Kingdom.
The insurer said at the time that it would not hesitate to
move parts of its operations to England or register its funds
there to protect its market position. Any relocation could put
some 5,000 Scottish jobs at risk.
Standard Life said on Tuesday, as it reported first-half
results, that it had not been given any clarity on the economic
and financial concerns it raised including those about
Scotland's currency, regulations and European Union membership.
"In making our comments, we were not seeking to make a
political comment. It was very much round about how we think
about factors that impact our business," Chief Executive David
Nish said on a media call.
Many Scottish businesses, particularly in financial
services, have been hesitant to voice their opinions or concerns
about the vote for fear of backlash from clients, investors and
"We are unaware of any significant amount of money being
withdrawn with regards to this," Nish said, adding that the
company had received "a very strong measure of support" from
shareholders for its plans.
Nish's comments come before a crucial referendum debate
between Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond and former
UK Chancellor Alistair Darling is set to air live on Scottish
television on Tuesday evening.
Standard Life posted a 12 percent rise in first-half
operating pretax profit to 339 million pounds ($571.7 million)
on Tuesday, beating analysts' average expectation of 321 million
pounds in Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The insurer said it was benefiting from the British
government's decision last year to automatically enrol workers
in company pension schemes, adding that it expected over 300,000
new auto-enrolled customers in 2014.
JP Morgan Cazenove analyst Ashik Musaddi said the results
were in line to slightly ahead of his expectations and
maintained an 'overweight' rating on the stock.
Assets under administration rose 4 percent to 254.1 billion
pounds in the six months ended June 30, while fund management
arm Standard Life Investments posted a 5 percent increase in
third-party assets to 108 billion pounds.
Standard Life's London-listed shares were up 1.5 percent at
Its dividend rose 7.3 percent to 5.6 pence.
($1=0.5930 British pounds)
(Reporting by Richa Naidu; Editing by Louise Heavens and Jane