Ellen Bennett, deputy editor
November, November. In my book, that can only mean one thing: getting started on the Christmas shopping. Here’s a list of who’s buying and who’s selling this festive season:
1. Selling – Jelf, or should that be 3i. Surely, it can only be a matter of time? As for Oval, after the vehemence of last week’s denial, maybe we have to believe chief executive Phillip Hodson when his says he’s gunning for a flotation. Or perhaps the price just wasn’t right. But that doesn’t mean that …
2. … Marsh isn’t buying. We know they want to break into the SME market, and that network proposition hasn’t been any great shakes yet, has it? So now it’s just a question of how.
3. Buying – Groupama’s FXB came out fighting this week following widespread rumours that Carole Nash could turn up in someone’s Christmas stocking. Nothing could be further from the truth, FXB says – in fact, Groupama is ready to back its other brokers, Bollington and Lark, in making acquisitions next year.
4. Buying – AXA. They’re in the money this Christmas – wasn’t it convenient that they announced a €2bn (£1.8bn) rights issue expressly for acquisitions the week after The Royal Bank of Scotland was forced to put its insurance business on the market? Now, Paul Geddes might be busy positioning the business for an IPO, but with the government and Brussels on its back, would the bank really be able to say ‘no’ if the right offer came along? What’s French for Direct Line?
6. Buying – a bit closer to home, let’s not forget RSA. Andy Haste has ruled out buying up RBS’s goodies, but that doesn’t mean the insurer isn’t still in the market for a transformational acquisition. I mean, we don’t really believe Paul Donaldson when he says it’s boring, do we?
7. And finally, buying – the consolidators. But there’s a bit less cash sloshing around this time, so expect them to wait for the January sales rather than paying big bucks this side of the new year.