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Phoenix hikes final dividend as it beats cash generation target after Standard Life Assurance deal

“There remains great uncertainty about the timing and terms of the UK's withdrawal from the EU,” said chief executive Clive Bannister
Shares rose 2.6% in morning trading

Phoenix Group Holdings PLC (LON:PHNX) lifted its final dividend by 3.5% after delivering a sharp rise in 2018 operating profit and beating its cash generation target. 

The pensions and life consolidator said operating profit increased to £708mln last year from £368mln, boosted by the acquisition of Standard Life Assurance.

Phoenix became Europe’s largest consolidator of heritage life funds after completing the £3bn purchase of Standard Life Assurance last August.

READ: Phoenix has most defensive dividend yield among life insurers as Brexit looms, says Barclays

“The transition of the Standard Life Assurance businesses continues to progress well and today we increase the total cost and capital synergy target by 70% from £720mln to £1.2bn,” chief executive Clive Bannister said.

“Our end state operating model will incorporate the best of both legacy businesses and our management bench strength and strategic options as a combined Group have increased significantly.”

Last year the group delivered cash generation of £664mln, taking the total cash generation for 2017 and 2018 to £1.3bn, exceeding the target of £bn to £1.2bn.

AUA hit by market volatility amid Brexit uncertainty

However, the company ended the year with assets under administration of ££226bn, down from £240bn in 2017, due to market volatility in the fourth quarter of 2019 when investors were more cautious amid Brexit uncertainty.

The group said net outflows in the UK Heritage business offset net inflows in the UK Open and European businesses.

“There remains great uncertainty about the timing and terms of the UK's withdrawal from the EU,” said Bannister.

“The group continues to closely monitor developments to understand any potential financial or operational implications.

 “The group identified contingency actions to ensure it could service EU-based customers in the event of a 'Hard Brexit' and has continued to progress these.”

Phoenix proposed a final dividend of 23.4p per share.

For 2019, Phoenix is targeting cash generation of £600mln to £700mln, net of an expected £250mln charge on Brexit preparations.

In morning trading, shares rose 2.6% to 725.4p. 

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