RSA’S offer was politely described as “speculative” when it was leaked on Friday. In fact, it looked downright odd: a £5bn proposal, made out of the blue from one chairman to another, swiftly rebuffed.
But no-one in Aviva’s boardroom will be feeling comfortable this morning. RSA has skilfully turned the nascent takeover battle into a referendum on Aviva executives’ chances of unlocking serious value from the business.
RSA’s timing is opportune. Aviva boss Andrew Moss conspicuously dropped the second half of his “One Aviva, twice the value” slogan at this month’s results. Aviva shares are down around five per cent since January and trade at a 28 per cent discount to embedded value.
Moss’ strategy of focusing on capital and cash is slowly beginning to bear fruit. First-half IFRS operating profits were 21 per cent up at £1.3bn and capital generation is expected to reach £1.5bn this year. Earnings per share came in at 38.8p, the best level in three years, and bullish analysts expect a rapid take-off as the cycle turns.
But with shareholders’ patience wearing thin and RSA looking determined, this story could run.