Standard Life chief: this deal is going to happen

Keith Skeoch, left, and Martin Gilbert, co-CEOs of Standard Life Aberdeen

Standard Life chief executive Keith Skeoch told the Press Association in an interview he is confident the group’s proposed £11 billion merger with Aberdeen Asset Management will gain shareholder approval, despite some investors expressing governance concerns.

Skeoch told PA that any opposition to the proposed joint chief executive structure — Skeoch would share the job with Aberdeen CEO Martin Gilbert — and a large 16 member board had not resulted in a “sizeable shareholder push back.”

“From everything I can see today, this deal is going to happen,” said Skeoch.

“There are always questions (from shareholders), but I wouldn’t say having joint CEOs or the board’s composition are the dominant issues.

“And the chairman has made it absolutely clear that over time the board will reduce in size …

“We haven’t had any serious or sizeable shareholder push back, but I’ve learnt not to be complacent,” he said.

Some concerns have also been raised over the proposed bonus structure for some executives at the merged Standard Life Aberdeen.

Shareholders in both firms will vote on the deal on June 19, with Edinburgh-based Standard Life requiring 50% investor approval for the deal and Aberdeen requiring 75%.

As well as institutional shareholders, Standard Life will also have to convince the retail investors which make up about half of its share register.

“By and large, they are supportive, but we do need to do work to get the message out about the strategic logic of the deal and the financial benefits that follow for them as shareholders,” said Skeoch.

“There are some retail shareholders who are very engaged and very vocal, others less so.”

The deal also faces routine regulatory scrutiny.

The merger would create Europe’s second-biggest fund manager with about £670 billion under management.