Scotland's biggest independent broker, Giles Insurance Brokers, is ready to snap up Ward Evans' book of business and transfer its staff. But it is understood that the name Ward Evans will go and the company will be wound up.

A management buy-out failed last week, leading to worries that Ward Evans was facing administration.

Giles will take the pick of the staff and the chance to add Ward Evans' offices in Leeds and London to its empire based in Birmingham and Glasgow. As Insurance Times went to press, Giles was in last minute talks with Ward Evans management.

The deal could give Giles brokerage of around £16-£17m, making it a UK top 40 broker

If victorious, the Scots' raid will bring Christmas relief to only about 30 to 35 of the 200 staff.

Chief executive Chris Giles was determined to see off aggressive bids from other brokers keen to pick up Ward Evans' business.

"It's a case of come and have a go if you think you're hard enough," he said.

"With the combination of their [Ward Evans staff] skills and our control and relationships, we'll see off any broker that feels there's easy pickings to be had."

The quality of existing staff and their reputation in the market were his main reasons for doing the deal, he said. Ward Evans had acquired a reputation for sailing close to the wind, but Giles was taking the cream of the broker's people, he added.

Giles had stepped in only last Thursday, but was satisfied with due diligence examinations so far.

Market rumour had focused on financial worries at the company, which grew to become the UK's 42nd biggest broker from its foundation in 1992 with no clients and no employees.

Market sources said that Ward Evans owed £750,000 apiece to Groupama and Zurich and £30,000 to Allianz Cornhill. The insurers failed to comment before Insurance Times went to press.