by Michelle Hannen

The release of the FSA's near-final rules has seen inquiries from brokers looking to sell or join networks "increase dramatically" over the past two weeks, according to one broker.

Joint managing director of Stuart Alexander, Stuart Reid, said he had been contacted by six small to medium sized brokers wanting to discuss a sale over the past ten days.

But IMAS Corporate Advisors managing principal Oliver Laughton-Scott said any increase in activity was coming off a low base. "It has been very quiet. Incomes are still going up this year and people are hanging on."

He said that because the market had been so soft he was expecting a "sharp increase" in acquisition activity soon. But Laughton-Scott said that interest from buyers had intensified, with two previously unacquisitive "large companies" approaching IMAS in the past week to discuss potential acquisitions.

The emergence of the Loss Recovery Group and Primary Broker Services (see stories on pages 10 and 18, respectively) as buyers reinforces this view.

The Broker Network managing director Grant Ellis said there had been a gradual increase in inquiries from brokers looking to join the network since the spring. He said that now that the FSA regime was becoming clear, he expected the number of inquiries would accelerate. "There's been a gradual swell of interest," Ellis said.

Argyll Insurance Group chairman Kevin Young said that he expected the rate of acquisitions to pick up after the publication of PS159 and PS174 had provided brokers with more clarity about their future options. He said that the news of a three-year moratorium on goodwill would hearten potential acquisitors.