Belfast Telegraph

M&G Investments could move funds if Britain loses access to single market

The new boss of M&G Investments said it could shift funds to Dublin and Luxembourg if Britain loses single market access following the Brexit vote.

Chief executive Anne Richards, who recently joined from Aberdeen Asset Management, said the decision would depend on the outcome of the UK's Brexit negotiations, but the firm needed options so it was in a position to "react and adapt".

M&G profits dropped by 10% to £225 million in the first half of the year after seeing £7 billion of net outflows.

The asset manager had to temporarily suspend trading in a property fund last month after some customers pulled out of UK commercial property following Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

The update came as Prudential - M&G's owner - booked a better-than-expected rise in profits after it brushed aside global market volatility and ultra-low interest rates thanks to a strong performance in Asia.

The insurance and investment giant said half-year operating profits rose 9% to £2.06 billion, with analysts expecting £1.88 billion.

Group chief executive Mike Wells said the insurer had delivered good progress despite "heightened macro-economic, geopolitical and investment market uncertainty and volatility".

The rise in group profits was driven by double-digit growth in Asia, where operating profits ticked up 18% to £743 million over the period, while new business profit stepped up 24% to £824 million.

Its UK business drove home a more modest 3% rise in operating profits to £730 million, as it continued to grapple with the upheaval in the pensions industry and the "onerous capital impact" of the Solvency II scheme.

Financial firms have endured a rocky ride in recent months, with the Brexit vote ramping up market volatility and rock-bottom interest rates hampering their ability to make money.

However, Mr Wells said: "The secular, global trend of increasing self-reliance of the middle class to provide for savings and retirement, be it by a fast-growing, wealthier but younger population in our Asian markets or by a growing number of retirees in the US and the UK, remains intact despite the macro-economic uncertainty including the effect of historic low interest rates."

It said the operating profit of its UK life business was up 8% to £473 million for the first half of the year.

However, profits from new annuity sales more than halved to £27 million from £66 million in 2015 after it announced in March that it would pull out of bulk annuities.

The company said under Solvency II rules - which require insurance companies to prove they can withstand a major financial shock - it holds a surplus of around £9.1 billion, equivalent to a ratio of 175%.

Shares in the FTSE 100 firm were up more than 2%.

Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said Prudential's Asian business had been a "spectacular success story" in the past 20 years.

"The economic slowdown in South East Asia earlier this year had little impact, which speaks volumes of the quality of the Pru's Asian franchise."

He added: "Overall though, while a slowing global economy and volatile stock markets create potential headwinds for Pru's UK and US businesses, long-term prospects ought to be supported by favourable demographic trends, particularly in Asia.'