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Marlborough Stirling in Exchange sale talks

Marlborough Stirling is understood to have held talks with four product providers to negotiate a consortium purchase of its IFA portal The Exchange.

Four product providers, including Norwich Union, Standard Life and Aegon are understood to have been in talks to agree a joint purchase of the portal.

None of the four providers is thought to want to buy the portal on their own but IT giant IBM is also understood to have held talks about a bid.

Marlborough Stirling chief executive Mike O&#39Leary, appointed in March, is believed to want to recoup at least the £87.2m the group paid for the portal in September 2001.

The Exchange floated at the height of the technology boom in August 1999, with shares rising from an initial 200p to a peak of 385p in December but plummeting to 20p by September 2001 when the business was sold.

The Exchange&#39s two main products are intermediary trading platform Exweb and business administration system Officeweb. Exweb is used by around 20,000 registered users within IFA and other authorised firms.

Analysts looking at returns on a possible acquisition believe that significant capital would need to be invested in the platform to bring it up to date with the demands of the new retail finance operating environment.

Retail financial services consultancy Cydonia thinks that the introduction of multi-ties could also result in fewer whole-of-market comparative quotations going through the portal, resulting in reduced revenues for The Exchange in the future.

Marlborough Stirling, NU, Standard, Aegon and IBM all decline to comment on the matter.

Retail financial services consultancy Cydonia director Allan Greenshields says: “Any organisation considering making this acquisition would need to be certain of their ability to assess the capital requirements, provide the sums necessary for this and be able to change the financial model to make it viable in the longer term. This is a really tough challenge and one that would need to be reflected in the price.”


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