Shares in FTSE 100 insurance group Old Mutual have fallen after it unveiled plans this morning to split into four separate companies - suggesting investors are less than impressed at its plans
Fear not, though. There could be good reason to be optimistic about this conscious uncoupling, if past precedent is anything to go by.
“The precedents set by six other FTSE 100 firms suggest [chief executive] Bruce Hemphill’s break-up plan at Old Mutual could succeed," Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said.
“Demergers by FTSE 100 firms are much rarer than mergers or big acquisitions but the record of the six major splits witnessed since the index was established in 1984 does suggest value can be created for investors, especially as the newly-independent businesses can be swallowed by a new owner."
1987: Imperial Continental broke itself up into Calor and Contibel. The former was subsequently acquired by SHV of the Netherlands, the latter by the Belgian industrial group Tractebel.
1990: Courtaulds split into two units, one of which was eventually acquired by Sara Lee and the other by Dutch chemicals firm Akzo Nobel.
1997: British Gas demerges into three firms which become Centrica, National Grid and BG. All became FTSE 100 firms in their own right - while BG has just been acquired by Royal Dutch Shell.
2000: Williams Holdings splits itself into Kidde and Chubb, both of which were ultimately purchased by the US-listed firm UTC.
2001: Granada Compass demerger Compass and Granada. Both are now FTSE 100 firms in their own right, Granada having merged with Carlton to form what is now ITV.
2005-06: In 2005 GUS spun-off Burberry and in 2006 it broke up again to create Experian, itself now a FTSE 100 firm, and Home Retail, which is the subject of a bidding war between Sainsbury’s and South Africa’s Steinhoff following the sale of Homebase.
Hemphill's strategy at Old Mutual, which is to be implemented by 2018, has four major thrusts, Hemphill added.
These are to reduce costs and overhead associated with the current plc structure, make each business more directly accountable to shareholders to drive improved performance, set appropriate capital allocation and dividend policies for each individual unit and make it easier for the market to value each asset.
"The top three could bring long-term benefits, the fourth may stoke speculation as to whether any of the individual units may attract a predator," Mould added.