NFU Mutual vows to fight off carpetbagger

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The Independent Online

NFU Mutual, the insurance society, vowed last night to fight attempts to force it to demutualise, amid speculation it is being stalked by carpetbaggers.

Based in Stratford-upon-Avon, the 91-year-old society is believed to have attracted the attention of John Murray, a former employee who is said to be seeking City backing for a hostile bid. A takeover would trigger windfalls for many of NFU's 850,000 policyholders.

NFU runs a network of 400 offices in rural towns and villages across the UK, but in recent years has attempted to broaden its customer base outside the farming community.

An NFU spokesman said: "We have not received an offer, and we wouldn't welcome one. We are totally committed to mutuality and while we review our status regularly, we conclude that, at present, mutual status best serves the interests of out members."

Mr Murray could not be contacted yesterday. His rumoured interest comes just weeks after Friends Provident, the life insurer, listed on the stock exchange with a value of more than £4bn, triggering windfall share issues worth a minimum £450. Last year, Scottish Widows policyholders received an average £6,500 payout from Lloyds TSB after the high street bank made a successful takeover bid.

For the past three years, new NFU policyholders have had to sign away potential windfall rights to charity, as part of the society's efforts to deter carpetbaggers.

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