Insurer Phoenix eyes up new policies after H1 profit miss

The offices of Standard Life Aberdeen in Saint Andrew Square Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain February 15, 2019.REUTERS/Russell Cheyne/File Photo
  • Insurer currently has 1.4 bln stg for M&A
  • H1 operating profit of 527 mln stg
  • Shares worst performer in FTSE 100

LONDON, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Phoenix (PHNX.L) is looking to grow its business of new policies following a takeover of the Standard Life brand earlier this year but is in no hurry for acquisitions, its boss said on Wednesday 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 (ABDN.L), formerly Standard Life Aberdeen, in February, Phoenix will also look to develop its open books, chief executive Andy Briggs told Reuters.

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

Phoenix now has 1.4 billion pounds ($1.93 billion)which could be available for deals. But Briggs said the insurer "wouldn't be at all perturbed if we didn't do another deal in the next year or so", following purchases in recent years of abrdn's insurance business and former Swiss Re unit ReAssure.

Briggs said Phoenix would also keep Standard Life International, which has operations in Germany and Ireland, following a review, and could use it as a base for expansion in Europe.

First-half operating profit rose 46% to 527 million pounds, below 539 million pounds forecast in a company-compiled consensus poll.

Phoenix's shares fell 2.1% to 685 pence by 0741 GMT, making it the worst performer in the blue-chip FTSE 100 (.FTSE).

Phoenix said it was on track to hit the upper end of its 1.5-1.6 billion pound cash generation target range for 2021 after cash more than doubled in the first half to 872 million pounds, above forecasts of 772 million.

Phoenix said it would pay an interim dividend of 24.1 pence per share, in line with forecasts and 3% more than a year ago.

($1 = 0.7238 pounds)

Reporting by Carolyn Cohn and Muvija M., editing by Kirstin Ridley and Tomasz Janowski

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