The UK's largest mutual insurer Standard Life has rejected talk of a possible bid prior to its planned IPO later this year.

The Independent on Sunday newspaper suggested that the life insurer could fall prey to an approach from a major international player, with a value of around GBP5 billion being touted.

However the company has vigorously defended its focus on the flotation, saying it was not aware of any approaches from outside firms. Speculation in the media suggests that a sale to another industry player was on the cards owing to the rising cost of Standard Life’s demutualization process.

In a Reuters report, the firm admitted that demutualizing was a costly and complicated undertaking. Prudential, US player The Hartford and French giant Axa have all been linked as possible suitors for the Edinburgh-based firm.