CINMan may split British Coal sale

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The pounds 17bn British Coal pension fund, whose ultimate disposal has dragged on for more than a year, may now be sold off in two parts instead of one, it was revealed yesterday.

Trustees of the CIN Management (CINMan) fund are believed to have agreed that if it cannot be sold in one slice it may be divided to make it more attractive to potential bidders.

The most likely split will be between a larger marketable securities fund worth pounds 15bn and a smaller property one worth about pounds 1.5bn. However, sources indicated yesterday that a successful outcome to negotiations with potential purchasers was still weeks away. Any deal would end months of uncertainty for the fund, which has been linked with a number of purchasers, including Hambros and Societe Generale.

In February, a pounds 70m sale of CINMan to Friends Provident, the mutual life insurer was set to take place, but the two parties failed to iron out last-minute problems.

Barry Southcott, former CINMan chief executive, is believed to have been a victim of the failed sale when he resigned in February.

Robeco, the Dutch insurer, is also among those to have expressed an interest, but talks foundered within weeks.

Since then, CINMan has faced considerable difficulties in attracting new buyers. The potential split into two funds is the latest strategy aimed at disposing of the coal pension fund.

The fund's trustees are believed to have said that that they would still prefer to see the sale take place with the fund as one entity.