Management: Speculation is rife that Oval is gaining the attention of acquisition-hungry brokers including Marsh and Gallagher. Philip Hodson, Oval’s chief executive since 2003, is believed to be increasingly open to such a sector-transforming deal.

The logic for Hodson is clear: Oval is in the market capitalisation bracket of £200m-£400m and is struggling to move on. A deal would also placate rebel Oval shareholders sitting on about £20m in equity, who have been pushing for flotation at the earliest opportunity.

But neither can a merger with a smaller player be ruled out, and Giles is seen by some as a potential partner.

Strategy: Whether through a merger or by other means, significant growth is on the cards. Although the firm shrugged off less than glowing results in March – Oval International turned in a £1.1m profit in the year to 31 May 2010, down a third on £1.5m in the previous financial year – it said this was down to tough trading conditions. This is particularly the case in the shipping insurance market – the broker needs a new strategy to break into the top 10.

Expertise: Oval provides UK individuals and companies, including SMEs, with general liability insurance as well as cover for more complex risks.

Oval Group Branches

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