Stan­dard Life plays down re­ports of Wid­ows deal

● Share­holder green light £11bn AAM merger set to cre­ate ma­jor global player

The Scotsman - - Front Page - By EMMA NEW­LANDS

Stan­dard Life’s chair­man has down­played spec­u­la­tion that talks over a tie-up with Scot­tish Wid­ows are im­mi­nent af­ter its merger with Aberdeen As­set Man­age­ment (AAM) was yes­ter­day over­whelm­ingly ap­proved.

More than 95 per cent of in­vestors at AAM and 98 per cent at Stan­dard Life gave the £11 bil­lion deal the green light.

Stan­dard Life chair­man Sir Gerry Grim­stone said at the firm’s gen­eral meet­ing that it was a “very ex­cit­ing mo­ment” for the com­pany.

Asked about a po­ten­tial merger with Scot­tish Wid­ows, he said Stan­dard Life al­ready has plenty to oc­cupy it­self with the Aberdeen deal.

Stan­dard Life’s chair­man has down­played talk of im­mi­nent talks over a tie-up with Scot­tish Wid­ows af­ter its merger with Aberdeen As­set Man­age­ment (AAM) was yes­ter­day over­whelm­ingly ap­proved by share­hold­ers of both com­pa­nies.

More than 95 per cent of in­vestors at AAM and 98 per cent at Stan­dard Life gave the £11 bil­lion deal the green light.

Stan­dard Life chair­man Sir Gerry Grim­stone said af­ter the re­sult came in at the firm’s gen­eral meet­ing held in Ed­in­burgh's Assem­bly Rooms yes­ter­day, that it was a “very ex­cit­ing mo­ment” for the com­pany.

He added that the com­bined en­tity would be a “ma­jor force” in the global fi­nan­cial mar­ket, with the merger to be “one of the most sig­nif­i­cant events in our near-200 year his­tory, cre­at­ing a well-di­ver­si­fied world­class in­vest­ment com­pany”.

Grim­stone also ac­knowl­edged that there are fur­ther ap­provals to be granted be­fore the trans­ac­tion can com­plete, adding: "We are still on track for a com­ple­tion date of Mon­day 14 Au­gust and will keep our share­hold­ers in­formed of de­vel­op­ments.”

He also said when ad­dress­ing share­hold­ers that some peo­ple have won­dered how the com­bined en­tity – set to have some £670bn un­der man­age­ment – will op­er­ate.

Stan­dard Life chief ex­ec­u­tive Keith Skeoch and his AAM coun­ter­part Martin Gilbert are to hold the role on a joint ba­sis at the new firm, which will be known as Stan­dard Life Aberdeen.

“There will be no con­fu­sion as to who does what,” Grim­stone said, adding that the new name “rolls off the tongue quite nicely”.

The merger, which was agreed in March, is tar­get­ing cost sav­ings of £200 mil­lion a year, and is ex­pected to re­sult in the loss of about 800 jobs over a three-year pe­riod from a global work­force of 9,000.

Grim­stone re­it­er­ated that a sig­nif­i­cant amount will come from “nat­u­ral turnover” and ad­mit­ted that the board – set to num­ber 16 – will be “larger than is cus­tom­ary” but is set to re­duce. When ques­tioned on re­ports that the AAM deal was fore­shad­ow­ing the firm fus­ing its life as­sur­ance arm with Scot­tish Wid­ows, owned by Lloyds Bank­ing Group, Grim­stone said Stan­dard Life al­ready has plenty to oc­cupy it­self with the AAM deal. AAM chair­man Si­mon Troughton said: “We are pleased with the over­whelm­ing sup­port Aberdeen share­hold­ers have shown for the pro­posed merger.

"They recog­nise the strate­gic and fi­nan­cial ra­tio­nale of the trans­ac­tion, which will cre­ate the UK’S largest ac­tive as­set man­ager and one of the top 25 glob­ally.

“To­day rep­re­sents another land­mark for Aberdeen, which started 34 years ago as a £70m in­vest­ment trust."

He con­cluded by say­ing the deal "opens up sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­ni­ties across all facets of Aberdeen’s busi­ness and is an im­por­tant step to­wards real­is­ing the com­pany’s am­bi­tion of cre­at­ing a world-class in­vest­ment busi­ness with a truly global foot­print".

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