Beazley drops £180m bid for its rival Hardy

LLOYDS of London insurer Beazley withdrew its £180m offer for rival Lloyds firm Hardy Underwriters yesterday after failing to win an agreed deal and said it might now return cash to investors.

In a brief statement issued yesterday, Beazley said it had submitted a final offer of up to 350p per share for Hardy but the firm said it would only consider an offer substantially above this level.

The withdrawal of the offer was not unexpected. Beazley had initially offered 300p per share for Hardy in October but this was rejected by the underwriter as opportunistic and designed to exploit a low point in the insurance cycle. Beazley then said on 15 November it might pull the bid after its revised offer, increased to 330p per share from an initial 300p, was once again rejected by Hardy.

Beazley said it would now look at other growth strategies. Hardy shares fell 4.6 per cent to 269p. Beazley shares edged up 1.3 per cent to 115.3p on the announcement.

“We will continue to look at ways to grow in the United States, at Lloyd’s of London and in Europe,” said chief executive Andrew Horton

Horton said Beazley could continue to look for acquisitions but added: “If we end up with surplus capital, I am sure we will look at ways of handing back cash to shareholders.”

Lloyd’s of London insurers have been at the centre of takeover speculation as a difficult trading environment has weighed on their share prices, opening up potentially attractive acquisition opportunities. In October, a four-month takeover battle led to Brit Insurance agreeing to be taken over by buyout firms Apollo Management and CVC Capital Partners.