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Russian plots Lloyd's entry via Chaucer

RUSSIAN billionaire Alex Knaster unveiled plans to buy his way into the Lloyd&rsquo;s of London insurance market yesterday, saying he is interested in taking a 29.9 per cent stake in Chaucer Holdings.<br /><br />Chaucer chief executive Ewen Gilmour confirmed the interest and ongoing takeover discussions, from Knaster&rsquo;s private equity firm Pamplona Capital, in an official statement to the market.<br /><br />Chief executive at Pamplona Paul Thompson, formerly head of Clive Cowdery&rsquo;s buyout vehicle Resolution, said the firm has completed its due diligence on Chaucer and is satisfied with the results.<br /><br />Pamplona also invests in hedge funds and Thompson said the firm was not put off Chaucer by its exposure to them &ndash; in January Chaucer said it was taking steps to exit the funds &ldquo;as soon as possible&rdquo; after getting its fingers burned in the credit crunch. &ldquo;We like the management here and the business mix, and we quite like the insurance space at the moment,&rdquo; said Thompson.<br /><br />&nbsp;Lloyd&rsquo;s peer Novae Group pulled out of merger talks with Chaucer in March, citing the deal as not being in the interests of its shareholders, and Chaucer has been the subject of frantic bid speculation since.<br /><br />Chaucer, which launched a &pound;75m capital-raising in January, posted a 42 per cent jump in first quarter premiums last Wednesday. It said premiums hit &pound;258m as the insurance market continues to recover strongly from the credit crunch.