Credit: Christian Beasley

Aberdeen Asset Management could be looking for a buyer

Rumours are swirling that founder Martin Gilbert has been sounding out potential acquirers.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 26 Oct 2015

If you believe the rumours, Aberdeen Asset Management could be on the market. Chief executive Martin Gilbert has reportedly been approaching potential buyers as emerging market woes continue to take their toll on the company he founded 32 years ago.

The 60-year-old has been informally sounding out rivals about the possibility of a takeover, the FT said, citing unnamed moles. However, Aberdeen Asset Management sources emphatically denied this.

‘In 32 years, Martin has never held a discussion with anyone about buying the company because he values Aberdeen’s independence and believes that gives the company an edge,’ one told City AM.

‘Martin is nowhere near ready to hang his boots up. He’s 60, he’s as energetic and as committed as he’s ever been.’

Nonetheless, a hedge fund executive who knows Gilbert and had heard the ‘rumours’ said the Malaysian-born asset manager needed to start the search for a successor. ‘There is no one within the business today,’ they told the FT. ‘Aberdeen has a huge Asian equity market problem, a huge amount of outflows. They don’t want to wait that out for three years as there is probably only one direction it will go, and that is down.’

That’s a pretty brutal assessment. In the quarter to June 30, investors pulled a net £9.9bn out of Aberdeen as they reduced their exposure to the tumultuous Asian stock markets it’s focused on. That took its assets under management down to £307.3bn.

Meanwhile, its share price has sunk 26% in the last six months. It rose as much as 7% this morning on the rumours, before sinking back to 364p, a rise of around 3.6%.

So who could digest the FTSE 100 asset manager, which has a market cap of around £4.7bn? The FT suggested several of its British, American and Asian rivals, as well as private equity firms like KKR and Blackstone, could be interested. Another source said it was ‘blindingly obvious’ Swiss bank Credit Suisse, whose relatively new boss Tidjane Thiam is close to Gilbert, should buy it.

Then again, Gilbert may well have already decided he can ride out this latest emerging markets storm. After all, it’s certainly not the first the seasoned entrepreneur has weathered in his three decades at the helm.

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