Deals talks are off

Marsh is thought to have eyed Oval in a deal that would have given the global broker muscle in the UK SME market. But the talks are thought to have stalled over price.

Oval chairman Philip Hodson dismissed the sale rumours as “absolutely absurd”. Marsh declined to comment. But last week UK chief executive Martin South told the Insurance Times Leaders Forum that he was in the market for acquisitions. He said prices had come down in the past few months. “We are in a good position if the right opportunities present themselves.”

Marsh is also known to be keen to break into the lucrative SME market, having launched a network for smaller brokers called ProBroker at the beginning of the year. The broker is also thought to be planning to move into the SME market in the US.

There have been question marks over Oval for some time. It recently secured a multimillion-pound loan from RSA, which it is expected to use to finalise a number of smaller acquisitions. There has also been disruption from shareholders who sold their businesses to Oval and were looking for a profitable exit.