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Life drains from shares; STOCK MARKET: Sales up, but City isn't impressed.

Byline: By Chris Morley

NEWLY floated insurer Standard Life saw its shares slip today - despite revealing a 26 per cent leap in sales.

Early trading saw the healthy gains in the Edinburgh company's value in recent weeks retreat by nearly two per cent to 2873/4p after release of the trading data.

Standard Life, formerly Europe's biggest mutual, said revenues achieved from Self Investment Personal Pensions doubled in the first nine months of the year to pounds 182 million, helped by the strongest ever month for sales in September.

Overall, worldwide insurance revenues were up to pounds 1.19 billion from pounds 890 million, with a 41 per cent increase coming in the third quarter - but still managed to narrowly miss the pounds 1.12 billion pencilled in as an estimate by the stock market.

The City seemed concerned at Standard Life's international performance, with less business in Canada - a key market for the firm - and Europe.

Standard Life listed in July after eight decades as a mutual, giving its millions of policyholders windfall payouts.

Chief executive Sandy Crombie said the company's prospects remained strong as A-Day rule changes earlier this year encouraged people to save for retirement.

The number of policies lapsing remained above the long-term trend, as customers consolidated their arrangements after A-Day and policyholders moved on following the award of windfall shares in the company's demutualisation this summer, he added.

In half-year results in September, the group increased the level of provisions set aside to cover higher-than-expected lapses.

Overall, Mr Crombie said, he was pleased with progress.

"UK life and pensions sales in the first nine months of 2006 exceeded the 2005 calendar year total with SIPP and investment bonds continuing to lead the way."
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Nov 8, 2006
Words:288
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