It’s time to bring a sorry saga to a close

David Hellier
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THE PAST few months have been pretty unhappy ones for shareholders in Omega Insurance.

Having spurned a takeover approach from rival Canopius, Omega’s board then entered into discussions with insurance entrepreneur Mark Byrne. These were in the hope of cementing a deal in which he would take a minority stake and also (mysteriously) seize control.

For reasons best known to himself, Byrne failed to consummate a deal, leaving Omega’s board and shareholders suitorless and somewhat sad.

Yesterday, just as many in the City were beginning to give up on Omega attracting any other suitor after its coy behaviour, Canopius returned for a second attempt.

Of course 65p a share is disappointing given that Canopius’ previous attempt was pitched at 83p, but this time around it is time for a more friendly conversation.

Much will depend on the view of Neil Woodford, whose funds hold a near 30 per cent shareholding.

Last time Woodford somewhat bizarrely sided with the Byrne counter-offer but like everybody else was let down by Byrne not coming through on his deal.

Since then Omega has reported heavy losses and analysts such as Peel Hunt have reduced 2012 forecasts too.

Peel Hunt recently reduced its target price from 52p to 47p to reflect the deteriorating circumstances.

In such circumstances, and with a recent history of procrastination, the Omega board and its advisers must firmly focus on finalising a deal.