Friends slams Cowdery's bid after meeting

INSURER Friends Provident yesterday lashed out at Resolution, the buyout vehicle led by Clive Cowdery, saying its efforts to take over the firm are &ldquo;totally inappropriate&rdquo;.<br /><br />The statement came after Friends&rsquo; chairman Sir Adrian Montague came face-to-face with Cowdery for the first time since the takeover plans were launched, at a meeting at the offices of Lazard, advisers to Resolution.<br /><br />A source close to Friends said the 177-year old, FTSE 100 firm&rsquo;s board is unlikely to consent to a takeover by Cowdery&rsquo;s Guernsey-based vehicle, after it rejected a second, sweetened bid proposal from the firm.<br /><br />&ldquo;This is the trouble with really rich and arrogant people &ndash; they really feel like they can walk on water,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />But last night a source close to Resolution said the buyout giant views Friends&rsquo; rejections as &ldquo;posturing&rdquo; and is confident another bid with further governance concessions will secure the board&rsquo;s approval.<br /><br />The governance concerns did not feature heavily at the meeting and are being used to secure further concessions, he said.<br /><br />Friends&rsquo; rejection statement to markets said governance at Resolution, set up in 2008 purely to buy out firms, is &ldquo;totally inappropriate in a public company context&rdquo;.<br /><br />The statement said Friends&rsquo; shareholders&rsquo; interests would be diluted by the &ldquo;significant fees and preferential entitlements&rdquo; that would be paid out to Resolution&rsquo;s team under any deal.<br /><br />Also present at the two-hour meeting were Friends&rsquo; chief executive Trevor Matthews, Resolution bosses Mike Biggs and former FSA head John Tiner, and buyout advice heavyweights from JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Lazard and Credit Suisse.<br /><br />The advisers are now set to take over the talks ahead of a third Resolution offer, with more governance concessions, planned before Friends delivers interim results on 11 August.