In the News - Friends Provident

The Sunday papers were again buzzing with takeovers of blue-chip UK firms - the most notable being a £1.7bn bid for Friends Provident by insurance tycoon Clive Cowdery's Resolution vehicle.

Friends Provident: target for Cowdery's Resolution
Friends Provident: target for Cowdery's Resolution

Friends Provident is expected to rebuff Cowdery's advances, but reports suggest he is planning to bypass its board and take the deal straight to Friends' shareholders. The move represents Cowdery's long-awaited return to the M&A market, having floated Resolution in December to raise £600m for acquisitions.

- The reaction?

Cowdery's move for the fourth biggest UK life insurance firm is not a total surprise, given that it has long been known Resolution has been on the hunt for insurance assets. Just last week The Times said he was looking to build a UK insurance giant valued at up to £11bn.

- Who are the PR players?

City firm Temple Bar Advisory has a long relationship with Cowdery and has worked with both Resolution vehicles. Friends Provident's PR is led by Nick Boakes, director of group communications. The firm uses Finsbury as its retained financial PR adviser.

- What happens next?

It seems the prospective deal will be played out in the full gaze of the media if Cowdery does bypass the board and target shareholders directly. He has signified Resolution's intent to buy up some of the industry's biggest names and Lloyds Banking Group-owned Scottish Widows and Clerical Medical are tipped to be next. Another possibility is that the move will set off a bidding war for Friends. Resolution will be keen to combat any negatives stemming from an FSA investigation into Cowdery and four directors at the company earlier this year.

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