Abrdn mulls a well-aimed return to dealmaking

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Graphs are seen on a smart phone in Tokyo, Japan, December 10, 2016. REUTERS/Issei Kato

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LONDON, Nov 8 (Reuters Breakingviews) - Vowel-less UK fund manager Abrdn (ABDN.L) is considering a big step away from its challenged core business of stock-picking. The group formed by the merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management may buy Interactive Investor, a retail savings platform owned by J.C. Flowers, for more than 1.5 billion pounds.

Interactive Investor won’t come cheap. Savings platforms are valued more richly than fund management groups due to stable revenue and faster growth. And while Abrdn has a small existing business, there are unlikely to be big synergies.

Still, if Chief Executive Stephen Bird can catch his prey for not much more than the mooted 1.5 billion pound level, it could stack up. That would value the group at around 10 times 2021 sales, assuming revenue in the second half of the year matches the first six months to June. Rival Hargreaves Lansdown (HRGV.L) trades on a similar multiple. And Interactive Investor’s low-cost model, which charges clients a flat fee rather than one based on a percentage of assets, should leave it relatively protected if competition hots up. Abrdn shares rose modestly on the news, suggesting investors are equally happy to try something different. (By Neil Unmack)

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Editing by George Hay and Oliver Taslic

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