IFG executives try to put Saunderson House mess behind them

Cantillon: Shareholders seek clarity as press report suggests asset disposal still on cards

IFG’s interim results are due on August 30th. Photograph: iStock

IFG’s interim results are due on August 30th. Photograph: iStock

 

IFG executives, barely a wet week in their respective top jobs at the financial services firm, will likely have buried their heads in their hands after a weekend news report suggested that the Saunderson House arm of its business would again be up for sale.

Earlier this year – faced with a fine from the UK revenue – IFG said it planned to sell its Saunderson House subsidiary. Then, it decided that it was an important part of its business and removed it from the market.

The affair was a mess, lacking any semblance of a strategy, but IFG appeared to have moved on and put the botched process behind them.

The story last weekend reported that IFG may, once again, be considering selling the business. It was based on a note from Merrion analyst Darren McKinley, who said that he “would not rule out renewed interest in Saunderson House from a third party given the quality of the business”.

Had this been an official company line not communicated first to shareholders, they would have been rightly furious. However, this was an analyst doing his job and reporting to his clients.

Nonetheless, shareholders are still anxious for clarity from IFG. It is almost a month since the company’s annual general meeting. At that time, shareholders were told that management was reviewing the business as a whole.

While there may not be anything to worry about imminently on the subject of Saunderson House, one would expect that the review will be completed by the time the company’s interim results are due, on August 30th.

Shareholders would reasonably expect that the company, at that time, could put its recent mixed messages behind it once and for all and present a coherent strategy for the business.

Presumably, management will have taken some consolation from the lack of any appreciable price movement or trading in the shares. It appears that, for now at least, investors believe their management team when they say that Saunderson House is not on the block.

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