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The M&A merry-go-round continues

While I was in oblivious bliss sunbathing on the black sand beaches of Santorini, the life offices busied themselves with more M&A activity than is usual at this time of year.

After Resolution vowed to fend off any threats to its agreed merger with Friends Provident from Pearl Assurance, the news came in that Lloyds TSB had sold its closed book business Abbey Life to Deutsche Bank for almost £1bn.

Lloyds TSB announced that subsidiary Scottish Widows has reached an agreement with Deutsche Bank to sell the business for £977m with the deal expected to go through in the second half of 2007.

As part of the deal, Scottish Widows Investment Partnership has entered in to a ten year agreement to continue to manage Abbey Life’s funds.

Deutsche Bank’s move to buy Abbey Life signals its intention to be a major player in the closed life insurance industry and perhaps it is therefore no coincidence that it is Resolution Group’s second-biggest shareholder with a stake of 6 per cent in the company.

As well as threats from Pearl and potentially Deutsche, Friends is also being eyed up by Old Mutual and Zurich if market rumours have any credence.

On the pensions side of things, The Pension Service says it will not be able to produce individual state pension forecasts for at least 18 months.

In a letter to advisers, it says it needs to carry out updates to its computer systems to incorporate the changes introduced in the Pensions Act 2007 but advisers are not impressed.

IFAs say it leaves their clients in limbo and it makes it impossible for them to offer advice on retirement without a full state pension analysis.

Advisers have even more reason to complain after news that under Tony Blair, the Government added 19 million more words of pension legislation and guidance, according to pensions information database provider Pendragon.

In 1997, when Labour came into power, there was a total of 9,888 pages of pension information but by the time Blair stepped down in June, this figure had soared to 46,394 meaning an additional 38,361 new pages have been produced during his 10-year tenure.

Pendragon says this is down to the unprecedented increase in the number of Acts, statutory instruments, regulatory documents, consultation papers and Government reports.

And finally, the rise of the Sipp continues with personal finance website Motley Fool set to offer its own direct Sipp administered by AJ Bell.

Motley Fool senior product manager Paul Warburton says the product aims to complement the share-dealing service the firm set up six months ago.

Oh how I’ve missed the world of life and pensions. Sun, sea and sand just don’t hold the same intellectual challenge.


Topix for discussion

How time flies. It only seems like yesterday that Japanese stocks were soaring and Japan was the hottest stockmarket in the world. Japanese small cap stocks were the place to be as investors sought to tap into a nascent domestic recovery story.


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