Tony Robinson, managing director of Centrepoint Alliance Ltd, which is selling its stake in Professional Investment Holdings (PIH), PIAS’s parent, told International Adviser that Centrepoint’s shareholders had given their nod to the planned sale, and the all that was needed now was the approval of Singapore’s regulator, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
“I don’t think there is a hold-up, there has been nothing to indicate there are any issues,” Robinson added.
“I just think that, as always, they (the MAS) are being thorough and diligent.”
Aviva, which already holds a 19.4% stake in PIAS, declined to comment, as did PIAS chief executive David Bellingham. The MAS did not respond to a request for comment, and as a rule does not normally discuss its dealings with individual companies.
The deal, which had been conditionally expected to be completed by the end of October, would give the FTSE 100-listed, UK-based Aviva the ownership of one of the largest financial advisory firms in Asia.
As reported, another deal, which would have seen Hong Kong-based advisory giant Convoy Financial Services acquire Singapore’s IPP Financial Services, fell through earlier this year – due, market reports at the time said, to the Singapore regulator not having approving the deal ahead of a date specified in the sale agreement.
In the case of the PIAS deal, however, Robinson said, no specific date has been set for it to expire.
Centrepoint executives, he added, were “hoping and expecting that the Monetary Authority of Singapore will have worked through all of its processes and giving us a decision in the near term”.
Some industry observers believe MAS may be reluctant to approve the Aviva deal, because, as the head of another advisory firm noted, it would be seen as putting one of Singapore’s largest “impartial” financial advisers in the hands of a provider of investment products, at a time when the regulator is seeking to encourage transparency and “promote a culture of fair dealing”.
However, others note that the regulator is thought to prefer larger, better-capitalised advisory businesses to small ones.
Instantly enlarged footprint
The value of the Aviva bid for PIAS is difficult to estimate, since it is complex and involves share swaps, cash, and Centrepoint shares of unspecified value.
If the deal goes through, it is expected to give Aviva an instantly-enlarged presence in Singapore – a booming retail insurance market – while enabling Centrepoint to shed a non-core operation.
PIAS is said to employ more than 330 licensed financial advisers in Singapore, and to look after almost 50,000 clients. Most of its business involves catering for locals, with expatriates accounting for around 10%, in terms of client numbers.
In addition to Singapore, PIAS has operations in Australia, Malaysia and New Zealand.
Centrepoint acquired PIH, which operates a network of financial advice firms throughout the Australasian region, in December 2010.