ABERDEEN Asset Management has again beaten City expectations by posting a 15.2% rise in profits, but its shares dropped as the company declined to give details of any future cash return to shareholders.
Aberdeen has been steadily building its cash reserves and in the past year more than doubled its cash holding to a net £266.4 million, compared to £127.5m a year ago.
Finance director Bill Rattray said that Aberdeen will meet new regulatory rules on cash holdings to be implemented from the New Year.
Investors hope this will free the Scottish fund manager to buy back shares or to pay a special dividend.
But Mr Rattray said: "This is a little bit too early to be saying something like that.
"Clearly the board will look at the surplus going forward."
He said that the company would reveal its plans to investors during 2013.
Aberdeen will pay a 7.1p final dividend on January 24, taking its pay-out for the year to 11.5p, up some 28% on 2011.
It said it is "committed to a progressive dividend policy".
David McCann, analyst at Numis, said: "It is slightly disappointing that there is no new guidance on return of capital."
Aberdeen's shares closed down 6.7p, or 2%, at 336p.
Aberdeen's cash position has been boosted by a 10.9% rise in revenues to £869.2m in the year to the end of September.
While some of its rivals have been hit by lacklustre demand for riskier developed market products, Aberdeen continued to see greatest demand for higher-margin funds such as its global emerging markets, Asia-Pacific and global equity offerings.
New business and outflows balanced each other out during the year.
But Aberdeen reported that two-thirds of inflows headed into pooled funds.
Meanwhile, more than half of outflows came from lower-margin segregated mandates.
With market movements, assets under management rose to £187.2bn from £169.9bn during the year.
The £47.5m the company took in performance fees was higher than analysts had expected.
Aberdeen's underlying pre-tax profit rose to £347.8m from £301.9m last year. Mr Rattray said the profit numbers were in part the result of Aberdeen's focus on generating consistent investment performance.
He said that the company could still obtain more benefits from the businesses it has bought in recent years from Credit Suisse and Royal Bank of Scotland.
"I suspect if the markets improve, the earnings will move ahead more quickly," he added. He said that Aberdeen would be interested in further "in-fill acquisitions".
But he added: "We are very much aware that anything material is quite likely to go down badly with the consultant market and we do not want to damage existing business."
Aberdeen's chief executive Martin Gilbert said: "This has been a difficult and uncertain year in the financial markets.
"Against this backdrop we are pleased to have delivered extremely strong performance for our shareholders by focusing on investment performance and by delivering for our clients."
Richard Curr, analyst at Prime Markets, wrote in a note for clients: "By any standards, Aberdeen Asset Management has delivered an impressive performance over the past year.
"When one considers that the growth in profits, revenues and earnings per share have been delivered in the face of challenging conditions for the financial markets, one can only speculate what the thrifty Scottish group might have achieved in a more favourable climate."