Windfall bonanza from Down Under

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Indy Lifestyle Online
While Northern Rock shareholders are still wondering what to do with their windfalls, a new bonanza is opening up for holders of policies with mutual insurance companies.

Next week 1.1 million Scottish Amicable members will get almost pounds 1,000 from the Prudential's successful bid for the company in February. About pounds 550 will be cash and the balance will be added to policies.

In mid-January an estimated 171,000 holders of policies with London Life and Australian Mutual Provident will get an average of pounds 3,000 in free shares if 75 per cent of members voting in next month's special meeting back the society's conversion into a limited company.

Policyholders will receive a voting form to send back by 18 November. If the vote is carried, eligible policyholders, which means those with current policies on 11 December last year and 10 September this year, will receive a minimum 100 shares.

They will also get extra shares based on the amount of money they have contributed and the length of time the policy has been running.

AMP's advisers believe the shares would be worth the equivalent of 470p each if they were trading now, so the minimum windfall will be pounds 470. The maximum could reach pounds 8,000.

The shares will begin trading on the Australian and New Zealand stock exchanges around the middle of next year. One important detail is still missing. There are no plans to have them quoted in London, and no proposals to set up a dealing service for UK investors who would prefer cash. Last month the proportion of Northern Rock shareholders who took the money was 43 per cent. A similar proportion of AMP shareholders might prefer cash upfront. AMP may have to buy back up to half its UK members' shares at a cost of pounds 250m, or seek a London listing.

AMP wants to expand in the UK and sees a share quote as a way of funding acquisitions through a share offer or a rights issue. One can buy and sell Australian and New Zealand shares priced in local dollars here in the UK but the shares would be more marketable here if they were actually listed in London and priced in pounds sterling.

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