Cowdery will chase Friends

CLIVE Cowdery&rsquo;s buyout vehicle, Resolution, is prepared to launch a hostile bid for Friends Provident, the life assurance firm led by Trevor Matthews, if it fails to agree a takeover.<br /><br />Cowdery and Matthews may end up battling it out if a friendly deal can&rsquo;t be struck, with Resolution prepared to ignore the Friends board&rsquo;s recommendations and make an offer directly to shareholders if it has to.<br /><br />A source close to Cowdery told City A.M.: &ldquo;We are not ruling out anything. Resolution is in business to do deals and currently what it has got is a pile of cash. It is in the market to invest it.&rdquo;<br /><br />He said none of the concerns noted in Friends&rsquo; rejection statement came as a surprise, adding that Resolution had tried to overcome the objections.<br /><br />And he said Resolution was trying to keep the deal on good terms as it values Friends&rsquo; bosses, including Matthews, and wishes to retain them. The group is now working on an improved offer with a possible cash sweetener.<br /><br />The Friends board yesterday issued a stinging rejection of the approach from Resolution last Friday, suggesting the vehicle&rsquo;s structure would offer its shareholders secrecy and &ldquo;a structure significantly different from recognised public company best practice&rdquo;. And the board said it was concerned the offer does not offer any investment premium to Friends&rsquo; shareholders.<br /><br />Resolution made an all-share approach, offering 0.8 new shares for every Friends share, which would leave Friends&rsquo; shareholders with about 74 per cent of the combined group.<br /><br /><strong>JAMES LEIGH-PEMBERTON<br />CREDIT SUISSE ADVISER FOR RESOLUTION</strong><br />Resolution&rsquo;s efforts to cut deals across the life-insurance sector are being led by the Credit Suisse team run by blue-blooded banking giant James Leigh-Pemberton.<br /><br />The Eton-educated 53-year old is receiver-general for the 672-year old Duchy of Cornwall estate, which provides an income for the Prince of Wales.<br /><br />Working directly under Leigh-Pemberton for Resolution is Zachary Brech, whose career has seen him work on deals for private equity giants Permira and Apollo and manufacturer Corus to name just three.<br /><br />Meanwhile, Friends Provident&rsquo;s dealings with Resolution are being managed jointly by Connor Hillery&rsquo;s team at JP Morgan Cazenove and Paul Miller&rsquo;s Goldman Sachs team.<br /><br />Irish-born Hillery&rsquo;s name is never far from the insurance-sector action. He led Brit Insurance&rsquo;s unsuccessful bid for rival Chaucer last month.