Friends Prov offloads final F&C shares

INSURER Friends Provident has finished demerging its 52 per cent stake in asset manager F&amp;C, after it sold its final 11.7 per cent chunk into the market on behalf of a group of smaller shareholders yesterday.<br /><br />While bigger Friends Provident shareholders were recently handed shares of F&amp;C as part of the demerger, to do with as they see fit, many small shareholders asked the insurer to sell off their F&amp;C stakes and just hand them back the cash proceeds.<br /><br />Friends Provident raised 62p per share in the &pound;36m sale, valuing F&amp;C at &pound;308m. A year ago, before the credit crunch sent markets plummeting, the shares were worth more than double this at 134p each.<br /><br />Many of the some 700,000 Friends Provident smaller shareholders are current or former policyholders at the group who received shares when it demutualised in 2001.<br /><br />Only around 10,000 of the smaller shareholders opted to hang on to the F&amp;C shares.<br /><br />Friends Provident said cheques with cash from the sale will be sent out within eight days to the shareholders. Investors with fewer than 2,500 Friends Provident shares, set to be awarded 250 F&amp;C shares or fewer under the one-for-10 deal, were considered to be smaller shareholders.<br /><br />The bookrunning for the share sale, which will see 58,079,518 shares change hands, is being run jointly by Goldman Sachs International and JP Morgan Cazenove.<br /><br />Friends Provident said it would continue to have a strong business relationship with F&amp;C.