Your IndustryAug 24 2017

Phoenix doubles operating profit

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Phoenix doubles operating profit
ByDamian Fantato

Phoenix Group more than doubled its operating profit during the first six months of 2017.

The closed life fund consolidator made a profit of £215m compared with £107m during the same period last year, before the deduction of interest and taxes.

Phoenix also generated £360m of cash compared with £147m in the first half of 2016.

The company’s acquisition of Axa is going forward “ahead of expectations”, with savings of up to £15m a year forecast, compared to a predicted £10m.

Axa has also generated a total of £282m of cash so far for Phoenix, exceeding the target of £250m.

Clive Bannister, the chief executive of Phoenix, said there would be further consolidation in the pipeline.

He said: “With an operating model specifically designed for closed life fund consolidation, the group is well placed to generate value from further acquisitions.

“The key advantage of the operating model is the rapid delivery of capital and cost synergies, ensuring Phoenix can deliver value from serial acquisitions as the closed life market in the UK consolidates.”

Mr Bannister added that the UK closed life market has potential assets of more than £300bn but Phoenix is now looking at opportunities in the bulk annuity market.

He said: “The bulk annuity market is a potential complementary source of annuity back books.

“The market has grown steadily in recent years and there is projected demand of £350bn over the next 10 years, as pension trustees look to de-risk current pensioner and deferred liabilities.

“Given the current capacity in the bulk annuity market, and recognising that Phoenix possesses both the skills and financial resources; the group intends to compete selectively on accretive transactions to generate incremental value.”

On an International Financial Reporting Standards basis, Phoenix made a loss of £96m compared with a £3m profit for the same period last year.

The company said this was because of “negative investment variances” from a hedging programme designed to optimise its Solvency II capital position.

This included the impact of higher equity markets on put options held by Phoenix which, when combined with one-off costs associated with debt financing and integrations, led to a loss.

Mr Bannister said Phoenix is working closely with the Financial Conduct Authority as it integrates Abbey Life.

The FCA is currently investigating that company’s conduct relating to annuity sales before it was bought by Phoenix and Mr Bannister said this will continue through 2017.

Phoenix now has around 6.1m policyholders and £75bn in assets under management.