Saga owner begins to woo potential buyers

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The Independent Online

Roger De Haan, the owner of Saga, came a step closer to cutting his family's ties with the pensioners' travel group this week when he formally began courting prospective buyers.

Roger De Haan, the owner of Saga, came a step closer to cutting his family's ties with the pensioners' travel group this week when he formally began courting prospective buyers.

Saga's adviser, the investment bank UBS, has sent out investment memorandums for the £1bn sale of the holidays and insurance business that caters for the over-50s to potential bidders, including all the top private equity houses.

Mr De Haan, who announced his intention to sever his links with Saga last November, is also considering seeking a stock market listing for the business his father founded in 1951.

As part of the "dual track" process, Saga is attempting to discover how many of its customers would be prepared to invest up to £50,000 should it opt to float. Saga sent a survey with this month's edition of Saga Magazine, asking customers how much of their savings they would consider spending on the company's shares.

A spokeswoman said it was "way too early" to comment on the replies received so far. A decision on whether the company will be floated or sold is expected in October, she added.

Saga sends a monthly magazine to all its subscribers as well as targeting anyone who has bought one of its products. Saga Magazine, which features an interview with the Conservative party leader, Michael Howard, on the cover of its August edition, has an average circulation of more than 1.2 million and a readership of 2.5 million.

July's survey gave customers five price bands to choose from, ranging from £1,000 to £3,000 and £25,000 to £50,000. It said: "At this stage we do not know the form that this sale will eventually take. If the company were to float, it would be our hope that shares might be made available, where possible, to our customers and readers."

Few of the recent flotations have offered shares to so-called retail investors. Companies prefer limiting their initial share offer to institutional investors, which means that private shareholders miss the chance of benefiting from the share price surge that often accompanies the first day's trading.

Saga, which has mushroomed from its humble origins as a Folkestone-based hotel, is still looking for a chairman after Stuart Rose turned down the offer of the role to join Marks & Spencer.

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