British insurer could be put up for sale - reports

British life insurer Friends Provident could be put up for sale after a wholesale review of the business, it was reported today.

British life insurer Friends Provident could be put up for sale after a wholesale review of the business, it was reported today.

Executive chairman Adrian Montague has been carrying out his strategic review following the failure of an £8.6bn (€11.6bn) merger with Resolution last month.

The Sunday Times said the review process was nearing completion, and that Sir Adrian and his team had not ruled out putting the entire company up for sale.

He has promised to reveal the results when fourth quarter sales figures are reported next month.

Other possible options to revamp Friends Provident, which needs access to capital to help drive a business expansion, are the sale of other parts of the group.

Its life assurance service for wealthy customers, Lombard International, could fetch around £700m (€946m), while a 53% stake in F&C Asset Management is said to be worth around £500 million (€675m).

Friends, which has a market value of £3.7bn (€5bn), missed out on the merger with Resolution after the closed life fund specialist switched its backing to a takeover offer from Standard Life.

As well as the strategic review, the collapse of the negotiations led to the ousting of Friends’ chief executive Philip Moore.

Analysts have been divided over whether the business has an independent future.

At the time of the merger failure Panmure Gordon said the announcement of a strategic review had effectively “hoisted the for sale” signs over the company.

Foreign insurers AXA and Zurich Financial Services have been touted as being among the possible bidders.

Friends Provident, which dates back to 1832, has around 2.5 million life and pensions policyholders, served by some 5,000 staff, at locations including Manchester, Exeter, Dorking and Salisbury.

Earlier this month the business was forced to suspend withdrawals from its £1.2bn (€1.6bn) commercial property fund after investors withdrew tens of millions of pounds.

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