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Friends Prov set to reject Cowdery bid

FRIENDS Provident, the life insurer that recently offloaded its stake in asset manager F&amp;C, is likely to reject a second merger approach from Clive Cowdery&rsquo;s investment vehicle Resolution.<br /><br />The board is expected to issue a statement today stating an offer from Resolution made to its chairman Sir Adrian Montague does not offer a high enough premium to the firm&rsquo;s shareholders. Cowdery&rsquo;s offer comes just two months after a ban on his vehicle making such moves amid an investigation by the <br /><br />Financial Services Authority (FSA) into his sale of a similar vehicle to life insurer Pearl last year. <br /><br />It is thought the offer heralds a return to fast-paced deal activity by Cowdery, with Resolution said already to have approached a number of parties. He is understood to be aiming to make three or four acquisitions in the next 18 months, to take advantage of the bargain prices on offer at the depths of the recession. <br /><br />Resolution raised &pound;600m from investors in a market listing last December and might need to return to shareholders if more capital is needed. <br />Cowdery agreed a tie-up with his former vehicle and Friends in July 2007, but later broke off the deal and instead sold off the vehicle to Pearl, the privately-held life insurer led by entrepreneur Hugh Osmond.<br /><br />Friends Provident earlier this month demerged its 52 per cent stake in F&amp;C Asset Management by distributing its shares of the firm among its shareholders, to let them decide whether to remain invested or to sell their shares. The insurer had been struggling with losses being made by the subsidiary, and the demerger process came after attempts to find a buyer for F&amp;C failed.