* Operating profit 723 mln stg vs 684 mln forecast
* Total dividend up 8 pct to 19.82 pence per share
* Assets under administration up 16 pct, GARS sees outflows
* "Tens" of funds positions may move to EU post-Brexit
(Adds detail, CEO comments, analyst, share price)
LONDON, Feb 24 Insurer and asset manager
Standard Life posted a forecast-beating 9 percent rise in
2016 operating profit, helped by building up a broader
geographic spread of clients, it said on Friday.
The Edinburgh-based company has been shifting focus to the
asset management sector and away from life insurance. It has
stopped writing annuities -- pensions that pay a fixed income
for life, though it has a large business managing workplace
Standard Life's strong performance came in spite of worries
about the Chinese economy early last year and broad outflows
from funds in the aftermath of Britain's vote to leave the
European Union, Chief Executive Keith Skeoch told a media call.
"Our targeted investments and diversification helped
increase our assets," he said.
Assets under administration rose 16 percent to 357 billion
pounds, above a forecast 335.4 billion.
However, fund arm Standard Life Investments' flagship GARS
multi-asset strategy saw 4.3 billion pounds in net outflows.
"Going into 2017, we expect the outflows from GARS to remain
elevated," Barclays analysts said in a note, reiterating their
negative recommendation on the stock.
The company set aside 175 million pounds in provisions for
compensation following the Financial Conduct Authority's review
of annuity sales last year.
Standard Life's shares were down 0.3 percent at 374 pence at
0911 GMT, compared with a 0.21 percent fall in the FTSE 100
More merger activity is expected in asset management, after
London-based asset manager Henderson Group agreed to
buy U.S. rival Janus Capital Group Inc last year in an
all-share $6 billion deal.
"We have long-term ambitions...we are continually scanning
the horizon to see what's available," Skeoch said of M&A,
without giving more detail.
Skeoch said contingency plans following the Brexit vote
could mean Standard Life Investments adding "tens" of staff in
Frankfurt or Luxembourg to bolster management of its funds.
Operating profit before tax was 723 million pounds ($907.4
million), compared with 684 million pounds seen in a
company-supplied consensus forecast.
Standard Life said it would pay a final dividend of 13.35
pence per share and full-year dividend of 19.82 pence, a rise of
8 percent from a year earlier.
Skeoch was paid 2.75 million pounds in 2016, following pay
of 3.46 million in 2015, according to Standard Life's annual
report, published on Friday.
($1 = 0.7968 pounds)
(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Rachel Armstrong)