Phoenix Group buys Sun Life UK for £248m

Phoenix Group's offices in Lothian Road, Edinburgh

Phoenix Group Holdings announced the acquisition of Sun Life UK, a closed book UK life insurance company, from Sun Life Financial Inc. for £248 million in cash.

Closed life and pension fund consolidator Phoenix Group is the owner of the “old” Standard Life Assurance.

Phoenix, the UK’s largest long-term savings and retirement business, said it also agreed a new long-term strategic asset management partnership with Sun Life that complements the firms’ existing relationships.

“The acquisition is expected to deliver c.£470 million of incremental long-term cash generation, with approximately 30% of this cash generation to emerge in the first three years,” said Phoenix.

“Sun Life UK operates a predominantly outsourced business model with the majority of its policy administration already undertaken by our strategic outsourcing partner (TCS Diligenta), which supports a simplified operational integration programme.

“We are targeting the delivery of c.£125 million of integration synergies, net of costs, from cost efficiencies and capital management actions, representing c.50% of the consideration paid.

“In line with our strategy to diversify our credit portfolio, we have also agreed a new long-term strategic asset management partnership with Sun Life that complements our existing relationships.

“This will further enhance and diversify our liquid and illiquid credit origination capabilities in North America, building on Sun Life’s strong presence in the region.

“The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to complete in Q1 2023.”

Phoenix said that M&A remains an ongoing strategic priority.

It said Sun Life UK represents £10 billion of the estimated £480 billion “UK Heritage M&A market.”

Flagging a proposed dividend increase, Phoenix Group said: “The value and cash flow generated through this acquisition support a sustainable 2.5% inorganic increase in the group’s dividend, to take effect from and including the 2022 final dividend, subject to completion.

“This demonstrates the significant value to shareholders of smaller, cash funded M&A.

“Ahead of the full year results, the board will assess if organic business growth delivered over the year can fund a further sustainable dividend increase for 2022.

“In future years, we intend to simplify our dividend communications by announcing any dividend increase at the time of our full year results, which will combine both organic and inorganic growth, rather than providing separate dividend guidance on announcement of future M&A.”

Phoenix Group CEO Andy Briggs said: “The acquisition of Sun Life UK is highly attractive for Phoenix Group and demonstrates the significant value that smaller cash funded M&A transactions can deliver for our shareholders.

“We expect this acquisition to deliver incremental long-term cash generation of around £470 million, inclusive of cost and capital synergies.

“This supports a 2.5% dividend increase, in line with our ambition to sustainably grow our dividend over time.

“We welcome the colleagues who will join us from Sun Life UK, and as the UK’s largest long-term savings and retirement business with a strong track record of closed book integrations, we look forward to offering a safe home for Sun Life UK’s customers over the long term.

“I am pleased that we will also be able to offer Sun Life UK’s customers access to our broad range of Standard Life products in our Open division.”

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Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.