Flowers formally withdraws from Friends

JC Flowers, the US private equity group which has been stalking UK insurer Friends Provident since mid-2007, has formally withdrawn its £3.5bn (US$7bn) offer for the group. JC Flowers warned last week that if management would not agree to talks by last Friday it would turn its back on the company.

JC Flowers has been looking at Friends since May 2007 when it was reported it might join forces with AXA to make a bid for the company. Following the failure of a proposed merger with Resolution Plc last year, Friends Provident embarked upon a strategic review.

Flowers then braved it alone, offering 175 pence per share in late 2007, an offer rejected by the Friends’ board. Flowers tried again in March of this year proposing 150 pence per share in cash, but this too was rejected.

Takeover Panel rules state that should Flowers want to table a further bid for Friends Provident, it would have to wait at least six months.

Shares in Friends were down 2.4% upon Flowers’ confirmation that it was withdrawing its offer.