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F&C set for change after Friends plans revamp

The future of fund management firm F&C is up in the air once again after Friends Provident confirmed its intention to sell its 53 per cent stake in the firm.

It is a move that had been touted for some time but now it has been confirmed it will mean another significant change for an asset manager that has struggled for stability in the past few years.

Following the announcement F&C has been quick to state that it is not ruling anything in or out, with Friends appointing two advisory firms in the shape of Lazards and Lexicon Partners to help sell its wealth management units – which also include Pantheon and Lombard.

F&C chief executive Alain Grisay said the group has excellent prospects as a standalone company a move that has led to swift rumours that the group may follow the likes of Jupiter and Gartmore in going down the management buy-out route in order to offer that much needed stability and control that a standalone firm would need. The move would also be buoyed by the fact that it would not expect to lose any of the Friends assets it handles.

Surely this must be the favoured route considering a purchase by another life assurer or asset management firm would only lead to a huge change in a firm that is expecting record sales returns in 2007. A massive overhaul is the last thing it needs at this present time.

The real questions would lie with the managers and whether they would want to be tied to the business in the long-term?

Chelsea Financials Services managing director Darius McDermott says: Groups have gone down this route in the past few years to allow advisers this stable environment where the managers are tied into the business. I would also not be too upset if they merged with a fund manager that was a good fit.

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