Suitors may switch as Omega stays quiet

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Omega, the Lloyd’s of London insurer that rejected three takeover bids last year, provided no details of further acquisition interest alongside its 2011 results, stirring fears suitors might look elsewhere, and sending its shares lower.

Omega, which last year rebuffed offers including an 83p per share proposal from rival Canopius and in January turned down an approach from Barbican, described the failed takeover attempts as “unsatisfactory,” but did not say whether it had since come any closer to doing a deal.

“The risk remains that the longer this company is allowed to limp on as an independent entity the less there is that will be of value to a third party acquirer,” analysts at stockbroker Peel Hunt wrote in a note.

“Independent shareholders should take decisive action to secure what little value is left.”

The stock has lost 50 per cent of its value in the past year, having peaked at about 172p in 2008.

Omega, one of the smallest listed insurers operating in the Lloyd’s market, also cancelled its dividend after its pre-tax loss more than doubled last year to £60m because of surging catastrophe claims.

In 2011, insurers absorbed over $100bn in claims from natural disasters including Japan’s Tohoku earthquake, making it the industry’s second-costliest year on record.

Smaller Lloyd’s players are seen as ripe for consolidation because persistently weak insurance prices have weighed on their shares, with proposed tighter capital requirements for European insurers adding further pressure.