Struggling Evolution tipped for takeover as staff seek way out

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The Independent Online

Embattled City brokerage Evolution Group looks set to suffer a wave of staff departures in the new year amid an expected round of consolidation in the sector, which is being hit hard by the downturn in corporate activity in the Square Mile.

Shares in Evolution have slumped badly since May, shedding nearly a third of their value as chief executive Alex Snow struggles to revive its fortunes. The group has been mooted as a possible takeover target for Michael Spencer, chief executive of interdealer-broker Icap, who is thought ready to put a war-chest to work in the sector.

Earlier this month finance director Graeme Dell quit to join the emerging markets fund manager Ashmore. One City broker said: "I've received a flood of CVs from Evolution guys in the last few weeks. Spencer's not going to have much to work with the way it's looking."

Should Mr Spencer decide not to bid for Evolution, rival stockbroker Panmure Gordon is believed to be high on his shopping list. The Tim Linacre-led group has seen its share price slump from 195p in January to just 79p by Friday's close of play.

"A lot of these stockbrokers are very cheap at the moment so I can see quite a few being taken out," said a banker, who did not wish to be named.

Close Brothers has appointed the investment bank Greenhill in its battle to thwart a takeover by Cenkos, which last month tabled a 950p offer. On Friday Close revealed it is was talks with rival bidders, thought to be the American-Japanese firm Orix and India's Tata conglomerate.