Halifax 'in talks to take over insurer'

NIC CICUTTI

Halifax Building Society is believed to be holding talks with a large mutual life company in a takeover bid aimed at boosting its market share in the financial services sector.

Industry sources say that the society, which is to become a bank next year following its recent merger with Leeds Permanent, has examined several potential companies in Scotland and England.

Halifax already has a financial services arm, covering both life products and unit trusts. Following the merger with Leeds Life in August, it now has about 150,000 policyholders.

Experts believe that taking over another life insurer would allow Halifax to cut back-office costs quickly for both parties instead of waiting to build up its own business over several years.

It would also give it an entry into the lucrative independent financial advice distribution channel, which recent surveys show is among the most productive in sales terms.

James Crosby, managing director of Halifax Financial Services, said: "We know there is a lot going on out there and there are a lot of opportunities for organisations like ourselves.

"I would simply say that from time to time we will look at [those opportunities]. It would be surprising if someone is not looking at a number of options and then moving on. But we are under no pressure to do anything by way of looking at our new business."

Mr Crosby added that since Halifax Life was launched 12 months ago business had improved significantly after a poor first six months.

Among firms said to be ripe for a takeover bid by Halifax are Provident Mutual and NPI, both large mutual companies based in England.

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