Skandia presents argument against Old Mutual bid

Swedish insurance company Skandia outlined for shareholders on Wednesday its case against a hostile takeover bid by British-listed Old Mutual, saying Skandia would develop better on its own.

Skandia’s management board rejected the bid in September, and on Wednesday the group presented details of how the company plans to proceed as an independent group.

“The board of Skandia believes that the standalone plans for the company offer greater value, and that the offer represents an inadequate premium for Skandia shareholders,” it said.

“The Old Mutual offer is insufficient to compensate shareholders for surrendering control of a business with such compelling and attractive growth prospects to create shareholder value,” Skandia chairman Lennart Jeansson said.

Skandia’s president and chief executive, Hans-Erik Andersson, said he saw “tremendous opportunities to create value in the years to come.”

Meanwhile in London, Old Mutual said it remained “convinced of the compelling industrial logic” of the takeover.

“Old Mutual remains firmly of the opinion that the combination of the two businesses will greatly enhance growth and reduce risk to shareholders through stable industry ownership,” it said.

The bid by Old Mutual, which is aimed at creating the eighth-biggest insurance group in Europe, values the Swedish company at about 43.5 billion kronor.

Old Mutual said initially that it was aiming for 90 percent acceptance of the bid, but about 15 percent of Skandia shareholders have rejected the offer so far, and Old Mutual has since indicated it would pursue the bid with less.

The Swedish group said on Wednesday that Old Mutual was overstating the value of its offer by including its interim dividend in its calculations.

Skandia also rejected the Old Mutual offer on the grounds that it is made up of 60 percent in Old Mutual shares, which Skandia said are exposed to markets with a more uncertain outlook.

Skandia said Old Mutual may be subject to significant currency and other risks and Old Mutual’s insurance business has various unattractive risk exposures which Skandia shareholders may want to avoid.

“The proposed combination lacks strategic logic for Skandia and may represent significant risk,” Skandia said.

Skandia provided further details on its so-called Turbo Plan, approved by the board in May, which identifies cost-reduction opportunities and synergies within Skandia over and above the 2005-2007 business plans.

It estimates that the plan will deliver 1.2 billion kronor of increased profits per year over the next five years.

Skandia said that since it has improved profitability recently and many of its growth businesses were reaching “critical scale,” this would be an unwise time to sell.

It said the Nordic business had turned around and was delivering strong profit and sales growth, while the British, Asia-Pacific and offshore business continued to grow strongly.