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LV= CEO attacks ‘disinformation’ on Bain deal as Royal London lurks in the wings

·3-min read
Members will be asked to have their say next month (LV/PA)
Members will be asked to have their say next month (LV/PA)

The boss of LV= today attacked the “fog of disinformation” surrounding the mutual insurer’s planned sale to Bain Capital, as he fights to win approval for the controversial deal.

Mark Hartigan told the Standard: “We’ve got to lift the fog on some of the disinformation that’s out there.”

The comment came as LV published new details on the process that led to the proposed £530 million sale to Bain Capital. LV is facing a wall of opposition and rival bidder Royal London is said to be preparing a counter offer in case the Bain transaction collapses.

The deal, struck last year, has been attacked by the press and politicians including former Tory Deputy Prime Minister Lord Hestletine. Critics say LV’s 1.2 million members are getting a raw deal with a payout of just £100.

Opponents also object to LV’s loss of mutual status and worry about private equity ownership.

LV today said the £100 payout figure was “misleading”. With-profit mutual members will receive an average of £2,000 over the life of their policy.

Hartigan is meeting with mutual member this week and next to try and convince them of the merits of his deal.

New rules came into force in 2016 called Solvency II that, combined with the impact of Brexit on interest rates, forced LV to put aside more capital to cover its investments. Debts have risen to £350 million, the maximum LV can borrow.

As a result, LV requires fresh investment to continue or would be forced to shut down. LV argues that outside investment is more attractive than asking with-profit mutual members to pay. David Barral, senior independent director, said a sale to Bain offered “the best outcome for our members, employees and all of our stakeholders.”

Hartigan said: “Bain’s offer was far and away the best.”

LV’s efforts have been complicated by noisy interventions from Royal London, which unsuccessfully bid against Bain.

Royal London CEO Barry O’Dwyer has called for three way bid talks between LV and Bain.

The Mail on Sunday reported over the weekend that O’Dwyer is drawing up plans for a merger between Royal London and LV should the Bain deal fail. Royal London will reportedly allow LV to maintain its mutual status but will look to sell the LV brand. Royal London declined to comment.

Hartigan said: “I can’t play call my bluff with people coming in from the side.”

He said it was “hugely disrespectful” and “wholly inappropriate” to be making comments in the press about the deal and stressed that the Bain deal was “the only offer on the table.”

LV is a “great, great British brand,” he said, “please don’t let that brand go to the wall.”

Mutual members have until 10 December to vote on the Bain deal. The insurer needs to win 75% of the vote.

Chair Alan Cook said approving the deal would “protect both [member’s] interests and the future of LV=.”

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