Today brings the first full-year figures from Standard Life since it demutualised and floated last July. The headline number is great. Profits up 55 per cent at £614m are some way ahead of expectations, and the plan to cut another £100m of costs (and 1,000 jobs) looks good too. New business and margins are slightly disappointing, as is the charge for customers surrendering their policies early, which is a bit higher than some analysts had pencilled in. Interesting to see Trevor Matthews, the Australian who runs UK life and pensions, have his empire expanded to include Standard Life bank and healthcare – evidence perhaps that he is being groomed to succeed chief executive Sandie Crombie, who, at 58, is likely to retire in the next couple of years.
Good figures also from Next, which has produced an increase in full-year profits above analysts expectations thanks to its catalogue and internet arm. This lifted Next shares more than 5 per cent to 221p in morning trading, making it the biggest gainer on the FTSE 100 index (helped perhaps by fresh LBO speculation). Warning: Next says competition online is increasing and consumers remain cautious.
Elsewhere in retail, it looks like Borders is considering selling out of the UK, where it owns 40-odd Borders stores and another 30 Books Etcs. The latest retail sales figures, incidentally, show the sharpest monthly rise in more than two years.
We’ll try to find out more today about the latest raids by the SFO in its investigation into Torex Retail.
Other stuff: good full-year profits from Dignity, the funeral directors (one of our more senior correspondents is onto that one), in-line prelims from M&C Saatchi, in-line full-year numbers from RAB Capital, plus results and a disposal from Premier Oil.