£3m pension deficit slows Oval acquisition of Bankart

A £3m pension black hole is said to be hampering the acquisition of Leicester-based broker Bland Bankart by Oval, according to broking sources.

In Bland Bankart's 2002 accounts, the company's retirement benefit scheme showed a deficit of £3.05m at 31 December 2002.

Sources said the two companies were in "advanced acquisition negotiations" after signing an exclusivity deal.

"But the hole in the pension scheme needs to be resolved first," one source said.

Bland Bankart, which has previously been linked to Jardine Lloyd Thompson and Folgate, is majority-owned by brothers Philip and Gilbert Bland.

A spokeswoman for Bland Bankart declined to comment on the speculation.

Oval was formed in October last year, when it bought Yorkshire-based broker RP Hodson.

It is looking to grow using a 'hub and spoke' acquisition strategy, targeting larger commercial brokers with financial services businesses, such as Bland Bankart.

A spokeswoman for Oval said: "They are on the acquisition trail and they're talking to a number of people."

She declined to comment further on acquisition rumours.

Sources said the acquisition would give Oval control of gross written premiums of more than £100m and brokerage in excess of £25m.

Bland Bankart was ranked fortieth in the Insurance Times Top 50 Brokers in 2003.

Meanwhile, Oval has appointed Stephen Bright as group finance and operations director.

He will have responsibility for implementing the group's acquisition strategy.

Bright was chief finance and operations officer at Cambridge Place Investment Management LLP. He was formerly the UK finance director of Canada Life.