Financial News

  • 3 April 2014, 17:00

Cowdery Nets 200,000 Profit After FCA Fiasco

The founder of the closed life insurer Resolution has netted a profit of almost 200,000 on shares he bought after last week's botched launch of a probe into the sector by the City regulator.

Sky News can reveal that Clive Cowdery, one of the wealthiest and most prominent tycoons in the insurance industry, is sitting on the paper windfall after swooping for 1.2m shares last Friday.

He acquired the shares at an average of just under 274p, in the wake of a newspaper report that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) would be investigating millions of so-called "zombie" life insurance policies dating back to the 1980s.

The report wiped billions of pounds from the value of listed insurance companies, including Resolution, which saw its shares slump by as much as 16% at one point on Friday before recovering to close down 7%.

The partial recovery came after the FCA corrected some details of the newspaper report, but insurers were furious that it took the regulator more than six hours to issue the clarification.

Later on Friday, the watchdog issued a further statement to say that its board would be appointing a law firm to conduct an inquiry into the fiasco, which has also drawn the ire of George Osborne, the Chancellor.

Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative MP who chairs the Treasury Select Committee, has called the FCA's actions "an extraordinary blunder".

Mr Cowdery's share purchases last week were an indication of his belief in the continuing strength of Resolution, which will shortly be renamed Friends Life, according to people close to him.

The company announced last month that its founder would step down from the board at its annual meeting.

He is expected to establish another life insurance acquisition vehicle focused on Germany, Italy or the Netherlands next year, although he has said he remains interested in further opportunities in the UK.

An ally of Mr Cowdery said that his 200,000 gain on the shares he acquired for 3.3m last week was modest in the context of the sums he spends annually on his think tank, the Resolution Foundation.

Mr Cowdery, who now owns shares in Resolution worth roughly 28m, has fared far better from the recent share trades than his boardroom colleagues.

Andy Briggs, the company's chief executive, bought 47,000 shares at 313p ahead of last Friday's fall in Resolution's share price.

Tim Tookey, the finance director, acquired 20,000 shares at 315p on March 25 and a further 175,000 shares two days later at 320p.

Both men are nursing significant paper losses on those holdings although neither has any intention of selling the shares in the short term.

The insurance industry has been left reeling by both last Friday's FCA fiasco and Mr Osborne's Budget announcement that pensioners will no longer be effectively forced to buy an annuity.

A spokesman for Mr Cowdery and Resolution both declined to comment.

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