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Jim Armitage: Stabbers’ hurting shareholders get good news at last

JIM ARMITAGE

Good news has been in short supply for shareholders in Standard Life Aberdeen since the merger that created it.

What with massive redemptions from clients hacked off with poor investment returns and a staggering loss of value on the stock market, the wheel of fortune surely had to turn eventually.

On Tuesday, it finally did.

Arbitrators have decided Lloyds was wrong to pull its £100 billion fund management contract with Aberdeen Asset Management after the merger.

Lloyds had claimed that Aberdeen’s new love, Standard Life, was a direct competitor to its own insurance division, thereby triggering a break clause.

The trouble with Lloyds’ argument, the tribunal ruled, was that there was no competitive threat after Staberdeen flogged its insurance book to Phoenix.

Stabbers now finds itself in the rare position of holding all the cards. It can demand either that Lloyds honours the contract and lets it run to its original term of 2022, or coughs up the £330 million in fees it would have paid over that period.

Such a vast sum makes even António Horta-Osório’s pension look small.

Standard’s Keith Skeoch could be forgiven for glorying in this big-game triumph, a safari-booted foot on the prone body of his vanquished quarry.

Instead, he was ’umbler than Uriah Heep.

Conciliatory words abounded as he invited his foe to negotiate.

Clever. Lloyds is Britain’s biggest high street bank and will be a potential client for decades yet.

Skeoch will play the long game and keep relations sweet. Extract lower reparations now in return for more business later. That shows good judgment from which investors should take comfort.

Perhaps SLA’s 9% divi yield is missing something.