Old Mutual to split up, may list some businesses

LONDON (Reuters) - Anglo-South African financial services group Old Mutual OML.L will split into its four main businesses, and may list its emerging market and wealth management arms, it said on Friday.

Regulatory changes in Europe and South Africa have made the company, which started out in 1845 as a life insurance firm in Cape Town, more complex to run in its current form, it said.

“We have four very strong businesses ... there is little commonality and limited rationale for them to be combined into one group,” chief executive Bruce Hemphill told a media call.

Speculation about a break-up and possible bid for its UK wealth management business had boosted Old Mutual shares earlier this week, but the company made no mention of any offers.

UBS analysts said that might disappoint shareholders.

At 1000 GMT, Old Mutual shares were down 1.3 percent at 182.6 pence.

Sky News reported last weekend that private equity firms had tabled a cash bid for Old Mutual Wealth, which analysts said would be worth 3-4 billion pounds.

The break-up of the four units - Old Mutual Emerging Markets, Nedbank Group NEDJ.J and OM Asset Management OMAM.N as well as Old Mutual Wealth - is expected to be largely completed by the end of 2018, the company said in a statement.

Hemphill, who joined Old Mutual in November, said one option would be separate listings for the company’s emerging market and wealth arms, but decisions had not yet been taken and the company would consult shareholders and debtholders.

Old Mutual, which is listed in London and Johannesburg, will close its London head office to save 80 million pounds ($114 million) in costs, Hemphill said, without giving details on the number of jobs affected.

The company will cut its majority stake in Nedbank Group to a minority stake, possibly of around 15-20 percent, he added.

Old Mutual also reported a solvency capital ratio under new European rules of 135 percent, lower than many of the other major insurers that have reported earnings so far this year.

Hemphill said the rules did not allow the company to recognize capital surpluses in some of its businesses.

The company said its pretax adjusted operating profit for 2015 rose 4 percent in reported currency terms to 1.7 billion pounds ($2.4 billion).

It announced a 2 percent rise in its total dividend to 8.9 pence per share but altered its dividend policy as a result of the break-up strategy, which Bernstein analysts said could result in a dividend cut next year.

Additional reporting by Soumithri Mamidipudi in Bengaluru and Richa Naidu in London; Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Mark Potter