Overseas growth propelled a profit rise at Standard Life Wednesday, although a downgrade from one of the sector's top analysts pulled down shares in Britain's fourth-biggest listed insurer.

Operating profit before tax from continuing operations rose 10 percent from last year to 182 million pounds ($286.6 million), boosted by better earnings in areas such as Canada and India.

Net inflows rose 71 percent to 5.3 billion pounds, while the group raised its interim dividend by 4.8 percent to 4.35 pence.

But Standard Life shares fell around 4 percent in mid-morning trade as broker Panmure Gordon cut its rating on Standard Life to "hold" from "buy." The stock has risen nearly 23 percent over the last month since touching a 52-week low of 170 pence in early July.

"I thought they were good figures but the stock's had a good run," said Panmure analyst Barrie Cornes, whom Thomson Reuters Starmine rates as the joint best analyst on the stock, along with Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Blair Stewart.

Cavendish Asset Management director Paul Mumford thought the company's results were good and said he would hold on to the stock for now.

"The stock's had a good run-up, so you're bound to have a bit of profit-taking. But one encouraging thing is that they've increased the dividend by about 5 percent," said Mumford, who holds around 130,000 Standard Life shares in his portfolio.


Standard Life's earnings follow a set of solid profit increases from Britain's top insurers this month.

Earlier this month, larger UK rivals Aviva and Legal & General posted higher first-half profits and delivered upbeat outlooks, while Prudential Plc is also expected to report a rise in profit Thursday.

"Whilst the economic background remains uncertain we believe that the underlying demographic and regulatory trends in our key markets continue to support our future growth potential," Standard Life said in a statement.

Chief Executive David Nish told reporters on a conference call that Britain and India were among the company's top priority areas, and added that Standard Life could consider small-size acquisitions in future.

"I think, as you've seen in the last 18 months, we do acquire businesses to accelerate organic growth," he said.

"They tend to be smaller acquisitions and it's much more about accelerating organic growth where, maybe, we have a gap in a scale, or a gap in the proposition or a gap in distribution capability."

(Editing by Paul Hoskins and David Cowell)