The presentation of the financial statements has been reformatted in 2011 to enable greater understanding of the financial results and position of the Group. Accounting policies that relate specifically to a balance or transaction are now presented above the relevant numerical disclosure.
Significant Accounting Policies
The Group financial statements have been prepared in accordance with [International Financial Reporting Standards] (IFRSs) issued by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) as adopted by the European Union, and with those parts of the UK Companies Act 2006 applicable to companies reporting under IFRS. The Group’s financial statements also comply with IFRS and International Financial Reporting Interpretations Committee (IFRIC) interpretations as issued by the IASB. The consolidated financial statements have been prepared under the historical cost convention, as modified by the revaluation of land and buildings, available-for-sale financial assets, and financial assets and financial liabilities (including derivative instruments) at fair value through profit and loss.
The Group has selected accounting policies which state fairly its financial position, financial performance and cash flows for a reporting period. The accounting policies have been consistently applied to all years presented, unless otherwise stated.
The Group presents its balance sheet in order of liquidity. This is considered to be more relevant than a before and after 12 months presentation, given the long term nature of the Group’s core business. However, for each asset and liability line item which combines amounts expected to be recovered or settled before and after 12 months from the balance sheet date, disclosure of the split is made by way of a note.
Financial assets and financial liabilities are disclosed gross in the balance sheet unless a legally enforceable right of offset exists and there is an intention to settle recognised amounts on a net basis. Income and expenses are not offset in the income statement unless required or permitted by any accounting standard or IFRIC interpretation, as detailed in the applicable accounting policies of the Group.
Foreign currency transactions are translated into the functional currency using the exchange rate prevailing at the date of the transactions. The functional currency of the Group’s foreign operations is the currency of the primary economic environment in which the entity operates. The assets and liabilities of all of the Group’s foreign operations are translated into sterling, the Group’s presentational currency, at the closing rate at the date of the balance sheet. The income and expenses for each income statement are translated at average exchange rates. On consolidation, exchange differences arising from the translation of the net investment in foreign entities, and of borrowings and other currency instruments designated as hedges of such investments, are taken to a separate component of shareholders’ equity.
Standards, interpretations and amendments to published standards that are not yet effective
Certain standards, amendments and interpretations to existing standards have been published which are mandatory for the Group’s accounting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2012 or later periods but which the Group has not adopted early. Details of these are contained within (Deferred acquisition costs), (Financial investments) and (Subsidiaries).
Use of estimates
The preparation of the financial statements includes the use of estimates and assumptions which affect items reported in the consolidated balance sheet and income statement and the disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities at the date of the financial statements. Although these estimates are based on management’s best knowledge of current circumstances and future events and actions, actual results may differ from those estimates, possibly significantly. This is particularly relevant for the determination of fair values of investment property () and unquoted and illiquid financial investments (); the estimation of deferred acquisition costs (); tax balances (, and ); and the estimation of insurance and investment contract liabilities ( and ). The basis of accounting for these areas is outlined in the respective notes to the financial statements.
The consolidated financial statements incorporate the assets, liabilities, equity, revenues, expenses and cash flows of the Company and of its subsidiary undertakings drawn up to 31 December each year. All intra-group balances, transactions, income and expenses are eliminated in full. Subsidiaries are those entities (including special purpose entities, mutual funds and unit trusts) over which the Group directly or indirectly has the power to govern the operating and financial policies in order to gain economic benefits (). Profits or losses of subsidiary undertakings sold or acquired during the period are included in the consolidated results up to the date of disposal or from the date of gaining control. The interests of parties, other than the Group, in investment vehicles, such as unit trusts, are classified as liabilities and appear as ‘Net asset value attributable to unit holders’ () in the consolidated balance sheet.
Associates and joint ventures
The Group has interests in associates and joint ventures () which form part of an investment portfolio held through private equity partnerships, mutual funds, unit trusts and similar entities. In accordance with the choices permitted by IAS 28, ‘Investments in associates’, and IAS 31, ‘Interests in joint ventures’, these interests have been classified as fair value through profit or loss and measured at fair value within financial investments, with changes in fair value recognised in the income statement.
Associates which do not form part of an investment portfolio are initially recognised in the balance sheet at cost. The carrying amount of the associate is increased or decreased to reflect the Group’s share of the profit or loss after the date of the acquisition.
The Group’s products are classified for accounting purposes as either insurance contracts (participating and non-participating) or investment contracts (participating and non-participating). The basis of accounting for these products is outlined in and respectively.
Assets associated with fiduciary activities and the income arising from those assets, together with associated commitments to return such assets to customers, are not included in these financial statements. Where the Group acts in a fiduciary capacity, for instance as a trustee or agent, it has no contractual rights over the assets concerned.