Resolution will have to find fresh funding for a new venture if it wants to pursue deals beyond the UK life assurance sector after the specialist consolidation vehicle admitted that investors had told it not to deviate from its current project.
The company, set up by insurance entrepreneur Clive Cowdery, has always said that a consolidation of assets in the UK life sector represented only the first of several opportunities.
However, as it confirmed to investors that further UK life acquisitions were very unlikely, Resolution also said it recognised that shareholders do not wish to “blend returns from the UK Life Project with those from other projects”.
“We’ve heard loud and clear from our shareholders that they view Resolution as a UK life consolidation story: that they know how to value that; analysts are comfortable with it; and there’s transparency around it,” said John Tiner, chief executive.
“The board will consider a response to that and update [at the full-year results on March 24],” he added.
Mr Tiner made the comments after an investor presentation on progress made by Friends Life, the company being built out of Resolution’s first three acquisitions: Friends Provident bought for £1.64bn in 2009; the £2.75bn deal last summer for most of Axa’s UK life arm; and the smaller deal for Bupa’s life and protection unit.
The snub by investors about starting other projects is a blow to a company that has been considering other potential deals recently, including Pioneer, the European asset management business being sold by Italian lender UniCredit, according to people familiar with Resolution.
It has always said it intended “to acquire businesses and [to] provide the public markets with a series of restructuring opportunities in the financial services industry in the UK and western Europe”.
At interim results in August, it added “opportunities in consolidating life assurance businesses in the US” to its scope.
Analysts said Resolution had listened to investors.
“[The] statement . . . should allay some fears [about] further acquisitions and the confirmation that there will be no non-UK deals within [Resolution] also addresses investor concerns,” said James Pearce at UBS.
Resolution said in the UK it would achieve its aim of a mid-teens percentage gross internal rate of return without further deals, partly by a 50 per cent increase in expected cost savings and partly by drastic reduction in the amount it would spend on writing new business.
“Given the threshold set out today and the focus of our strategic plan . . . it is very unlikely that we will find acquisition opportunities that are accretive to returns,” Mr Tiner said.
The stock slipped 1.7 per cent to 284.1p in a weak market.
Get alerts on Mergers & Acquisitions when a new story is published