Byrne aims to revive morale inside Omega

David Hellier
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MARK Byrne, the insurance entrepreneur bidding to take control of Omega Insurance, said yesterday he hoped there would be a quick resolution to the three-way takeover contest that has left the company in a state of flux.

“It’s difficult to hire people when there’s a for sale sign on the door,” Byrne told City A.M. yesterday, just hours before his tender document is due to be published.

“I’m not letting grass grow under my feet,” he said.

Byrne is tendering for up to 25 per cent of the group’s shares in an offer that will be worth between 70p to 83p depending on demand. He is up against a possible full offer from insurance group Canopius and a rival offer from Barbican Insurance, which is the form of a reverse takeover.

Byrne said he would manage the company from London, where he has a home, and he ruled out suggestions that he would use a company jet as he did at Flagstone Re, an earlier venture of his.

“I’ve got no plans to increase the cost base,” he said, “ and I’ve no plans to change the senior management.”

He defended Omega chief executive Richard Pexton, who has overseen a recent 25 per cent reduction in assets. “I don’t think it is fair to criticise him. He’s made good decisions on technology, for example.”

Byrne said that he might consider injecting some of his other business interests into Omega, such as his micro-insurance business that he owns through another vehicle Leapfrog.

“It’s not a high priority on day one but if we got the opportunity to do something at some point it might be worth looking at. There are higher priorities right now.”

Much depends now on the decision of Neil Woodford whose Invesco Perpetual funds own around 27 per cent of Omega. Up until now he appears to have decided with Byrne, indicating that he might tender a stake of up to five per cent of Byrne’s offer.

Byrne still needs regulatory approval, which he expects to get by November.