Skandia looks set to lose its bitter takeover battle against South African insurance and investment firm Old Mutual this week as the third acceptance deadline looms. Old Mutual extended the deadline for Skandia shareholders to accept its $US5.6 billion offer to January 12 after securing almost 65 per cent of the company by its earlier cut-off date of December 16.

The South African company initially set a date of November 21 last year to secure 90 per cent of Skandia but later lowered its target to 50 per cent and pushed out the deadline a month. According to Old Mutual, the decision to extend the offer to January 12 was made as the group is still waiting for final regulatory sign-off on the deal and it expected to attract more Skandia shareholders in the interim. Currently 64.28 per cent of Skandia shareholders have indicated support for the Old Mutual offer, which leaves it just shy of the 67 per cent it needs to change the Skandia board. However, Old Mutual CEO, Jim Sutcliffe, said talks would begin shortly with Skandia on the structure of the board for a newly-merged company. Sutcliffe also said Old Mutual could extend the offer beyond January 12 if the expected regulatory approvals have not been received by that date. “;We are very happy with the votes we have, and although we expect to receive more, it doesn’t really matter if the amount rises further,”; Sutcliffe told media after the earlier acceptance level was made public last year. In a statement issued late December Skandia grudgingly admitted Old Mutual was likely to become the major shareholder but was adamant that “… Skandia will continue to be a listed company”. Old Mutual needs 90 per cent of Skandia to delist the Swedish financial services giant. Skandia also said the extended deadline offer could backfire against Old Mutual as shareholders still have the right to change their acceptance until it becomes unconditional. Most analysts expect Old Mutual to increase its shareholding in Skandia by the January 12 deadline. How the proposed merger will affect Skandia’s Australian operations is unclear but its local CEO, Ross Laidlaw, told Investment and Technology News last year that he expected “business as usual” irrespective of who owned the company.

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