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21 Jan, 2008

Published: 10:53 Monday 21 January 2008
By: Nicholas Paler, Investment Reporter

Private Equity firm JC Flowers has confirmed it is considering a bid for Friends Provident after revealing it owns a 2.7% stake in the firm.

In a statement to the stock exchange JC Flowers said it intends to approach the Board of Friends (FP.) with a view to developing a proposal that 'will deliver value for Friends Provident's shareholders.'

Friends Provident's share price soared mid-morning following the announcement, building on early gains after a hectic weekend when it was first announced the firm was the target of a possible takeover by JC Flowers.

Its shares were up nearly 8%, or 11.8p, to 164.3p at 10.43am.

JC Flowers, which is also considering whether to merely increase its position in Friends, is reportedly prepared to pay around 175p per share.

With rumours of a takeover rife, it is also understood that Friends made a move to poach Standard Life's chief executive of financial services, Trevor Matthews, and install him as its own chief executive following the departure of Philip Moore.

However, it is believed Matthews has chosen to reject the offer, opting to stay put at the insurance giant.

Friends Provident declined to comment about either the approach to Matthews or the move by JC Flowers to increase its stake in the firm.

It is currently undergoing its strategic review, with an announcement about the company's plans going forward expected at the end of the month.

Standard Life also declined to comment on the approach for Matthews.

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