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M&G - back in the bulk annuity market

M&G reported first-half Assets Under Management and Administration (AUMA) of £332.8bn...

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M&G reported first-half Assets Under Management and Administration (AUMA) of £332.8bn. That was down 2.7% from the start of the year, driven by negative market movements and a small net client outflow.

Excluding the closed Heritage portfolio, there were net inflows of £0.7bn. Momentum in Wholesale Asset Management accelerated further, helping to absorb expected outflows in Institutional Asset Management.

Underlying operating profit rose 30.9% to £390m, largely due to higher interest rates which improved profitability for the annuity portfolio. Since ending the half, M&G has re-entered the bulk purchase annuity market with two deals - its first since closing the book in 2016.

The Shareholder Solvency II coverage ratio, a measure of balance sheet strength, was flat at 199%. An interim dividend of 6.5p was announced, up 5%.

The shares rose 3.3% in early trading.

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Our view

The transformation programme continues, with a renewed focus on the Asset Management and Wealth businesses. We're supportive of the narrowed focus, and momentum looks to be building in those two areas. That's good news as net inflows have been hard to come by in recent years.

M&G is an asset manager at its core, with retail and savings products (life insurance, wealth management etc) supporting the main event. Attracting new capital is key, and it's an area M&G has struggled with in recent years. But green shoots are starting to appear, despite UK institutional flows still feeling the after-effects of the mini-budget debacle last year.

Part of the strategy is to wind down what M&G calls the Heritage book, which includes legacy products and an annuity portfolio that's been closed since 2016. It's this part of the business that drove profit growth over the first half. The annuity portfolio benefits in a higher rate environment, and that's precisely why M&G is now back in the market for new annuity business.

The bulk purchase annuity market is heating up. This is essentially where an insurer/asset manager receives a lump sum to cover a company's future pension liabilities. The lump sum can be invested and hopefully generates a higher return than the pension payments it funds. We heard of two deals that closed after the end of the half, marking the first steps back into the market for several years. M&G plan to be selective, which is wise, and this could bring another stream of growth.

With assets under management of c.£330bn, M&G is big, but not a giant in asset management terms. The PruFund line of with-profits funds have been selling well, and its diversification benefits are being seen more favourably given current market conditions. But the product isn't the easiest for everyday investors to understand due to its complex structure.

The revamped M&G Wealth platform looks to offer advisers an all-in-one platform, funnelling assets from customers into M&G or PruFund products. Progress is good and if it continues, PruFund solutions will be more accessible helping to flow growth for years to come.

Capital levels look good and there are targets in place to reduce relative debt levels and cut costs. All of this leaves us relatively confident that the double-digit forward yield is achievable. M&G's defied the bears since spinning off from Prudential in 2019, growing its dividend every year. Of course, nothing is guaranteed.

There are positive signs for the latest phase of M&G under new stewardship and the yield is certainly attractive. But we'd like to see proof of more consistent flow growth, and progress on cost cuts before getting too excited.

M&G key facts

All ratios are sourced from Refinitiv. Please remember yields are variable and not a reliable indicator of future income. Keep in mind key figures shouldn't be looked at on their own - it's important to understand the big picture.

This article is original Hargreaves Lansdown content, published by Hargreaves Lansdown. It was correct as at the date of publication, and our views may have changed since then. Unless otherwise stated estimates, including prospective yields, are a consensus of analyst forecasts provided by Refinitiv. These estimates are not a reliable indicator of future performance. Yields are variable and not guaranteed. Investments rise and fall in value so investors could make a loss.

This article is not advice or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any investment. No view is given on the present or future value or price of any investment, and investors should form their own view on any proposed investment. This article has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is considered a marketing communication. Non-independent research is not subject to FCA rules prohibiting dealing ahead of research, however HL has put controls in place (including dealing restrictions, physical and information barriers) to manage potential conflicts of interest presented by such dealing. Please see our full non-independent research disclosure for more information.

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Written by
Matt-Britzman
Matt Britzman
Equity Analyst

Matt is an Equity Analyst on the share research team, providing up-to-date research and analysis on individual companies and wider sectors.

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Article history
Published: 20th September 2023