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Last stand for Lloyd's names

Lloyd's action groups will mount a last-ditch attempt tomorrow to force the insurance market to lift its pounds 3.1bn Equitas settlement package as around 3,000 angry and bewildered names converge on London's Royal Festival Hall for a heated annual meeting.

Action groups, who are suing over pounds 8bn of losses, have tabled four resolutions, including calls for a levy to raise an extra pounds 3bn over 15 years to bale names out.

Lloyd's chairman David Rowland is expected to sweeten the offer with an extra pounds 25m to pounds 50m from agents, whose negligence over pollution and catastrophe policies caused much of the grief. He will, however, oppose calls for another pounds 200m from agents and all other demands.

"What, in effect, they're saying is that we have to tear up the programme and start again from scratch," a Lloyd's spokesman said.

Rebels deny they are trying to wreck the market as the August deadline looms for Government approval for the 300-year-old market's survival.

"What we want is to improve the package. We think it is unfair, unjust and dishonourable," said Christopher Stockwell, chairman of the Lloyd's Names Associations' Working Party.

With a two-thirds majority needed, the rebels face an uphill struggle. New corporate members will back the plans, while many of the 34,000 names, many of whom are bankrupt, want to settle. Lloyd's has also made much of the running of late despite a series of delays after it announced the rescue last year.

In May, it sweetened the deal by pounds 300m and last week announced profits of pounds 1.1bn for 1993, the first since 1987. It also unveiled pounds 40m extra for US names to halt actions by US State Securities authorities.

This weekend the deal was being fiercely opposed by US names as a sell- out. Prosecutors in some states including Missouri, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Ohio were also fighting a furious rearguard action.

"The real theme this weekend is securities commissioners against law enforcers," said one leading US name.

To make the deal stick, Lloyd's needs approval from states containing 80 per cent of the 2,600 US names by its deadline tonight. Failing that, however, with New York and California on side, names expect it to announce a tactical victory tomorrow.