Investor pressure sees Aviva row back on share cancellation

Insurance giant Aviva has succumbed to shareholder pressure and rowed back on its controversial proposal to cancel £450m worth of preference shares.

Group chief executive of Aviva, Mark Wilson Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Earlier this month, Aviva said it would cancel the shares at par value as part of a plan to return £500m to shareholders.

But on Friday the company said it had spoken to a large number of investors and received “strong feedback and criticism”.

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It added: “As a result, Aviva has listened. Aviva announces that it has decided to take no action to cancel its preference shares.”

The initial plan to cancel the shares, which pay high fixed dividends, received criticism from investors and the Financial Conduct Authority.

Aviva chief executive Mark Wilson said: “I am very aware that Aviva is in a position of trust with our customers and investors. To maintain that trust it is critical that we listen to and act on feedback. The reputation of Aviva, and the trust people have in us, is paramount.

“Our announcement today means that preference shareholders can rest secure in their holdings. The board and I have a duty to consider not just the financial implications of our actions; we must consider the impact to Aviva’s wider reputation.

“I hope our decision today goes some way to restoring that trust.”

Aviva added that it still plans to deploy £3bn of excess cash in 2018 and 2019 to reduce hybrid debt, fund bolt-on acquisitions and buy back ordinary shares.

Aviva employs 2,000 people ​in ​York​ and 1,500 at its health insurance operation in​ Sheffield​​​.