Friends Provident is coming under increasing pressure to explain its strategy and the structure of its executive management team after the collapse of an £8bn ($16.6bn) merger with Resolution Life.
The chairman of Friends was meeting leading shareholders this week. Some investors said the merger revealed Friends to be “strategically challenged and needed cash and scale”.
Shareholders are also concerned about the executive team. Their concerns intensified after the board agreed that Resolution’s management team would have headed a merged entity.
Some shareholders believe there will be a widespread shake-up of Friends’ management during the next few weeks, with chief executive Philip Moore under most pressure.
However, Mr Moore is confident he has the full support of institutions and the board.
Some investors and analysts say the situation remains fluid partly because the fate of Resolution is still unknown. Clive
Cowdery, chairman of Resolution, and Mike Biggs, its chief executive, would join Standard Life if the Edinburgh-based life assurer wins a bidding war for Resolution.
However, if Hugh Osmond‘s Pearl Group is victorious with a rival bid, Mr Cowdery and Mr Biggs are likely to be out of jobs. Mr Osmond and Mr Cowdery are rivals.
One theory gaining ground is that they could join Friends. However, people familiar with Friends say this is not being contemplated internally.
Friends is believed to be revisiting its strategy in the light of the failed merger, and is expected to outline this shortly. However, the group believes the overall strategic direction is sound.
Some analysts and bankers have suggested that Friends could look to sell its 53 per cent stake in F&C, the asset manager. Another option would be to sell Lombard, the European wealth manager.
Friends believes it has a balanced portfolio, although it would have to consider attractive offers for these businesses.
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