Refuge puts off merger meeting

Refuge and United Friendly yesterday postponed the key shareholders meeting on their pounds 1.5bn merger from next Monday until 26 September after agreeing to improve the terms.

Two of the largest shareholders, Prudential and Britannic Assurance, are believed to be ready to accept the merger on the changed terms, but Refuge needs longer to work out the details.

However, Perpetual, the fund management group with 7.5 per cent of the shares, said yesterday that new proposals were inadequate.

Refuge and United are to issue a note promising additional payments to be made if the Department of Trade and Industry decides to allow some of the group's "orphan estate" of unclaimed life assurance assets to be given to shareholders.

Refuge said in a statement last night that it nevertheless believed that on the basis of its discussions with the DTI, there would not be additional value released for shareholders.

Sources close to the company said it still believed it might have won the vote on Monday, but there was no sense in upsetting shareholders.

Perpetual would also like to see a 50:50 split of shareholdings in the enlarged group instead of 53 per cent for United and 47 per cent for Refuge.