Ticker AV.

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As of 15:39 17 Feb 2019
Market cap. Pound sterling
16,520.62 million
As of 15:39 17 Feb 2019

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Not such a big surprise

Today Programme

BBC Radio 4

Aviva boss Mark Wilson

While many people may have been shocked at the surprise departure of Aviva boss Mark Wilson, investors were not - especially because the insurance group's share price has been stuck between £4 and £5 for some time.

Aviva's share price performance over five years
Aviva's share price performance over five years

Simon French, chief economist at Panmure Gordon, says: "Investors are looking at Aviva and going 'well, where is the growth opportunity - this is a very UK-centered business. Where are the growth opportunities in Asia?' It has tried in the US and failed.

"I sit next to our insurance analyst at Panmure Gordon," says Mr French. "And he has long predicted Mark Wilson's departure.

"Not just because of the botched attempt to cancel the preference shares which brought Aviva some fairly negative headlines but also because that growth strategy hasn't been obvious to investors and pushed up their valuation."

Aviva boss 'looking a bit stale'

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst for Markets.com, has commented on Mark Wilson's departure from Aviva. He said:

Shares have tumbled this year and perhaps his leadership was looking a little stale, although the sector has been under pressure. Wilson upset investors with plans to cancel high-yield preference shares that he was forced to abandon amid serious grumblings. Shares in Aviva have opened 2% higher on the news, which is a bit of a kick in the teeth for him. But overall you have to say that Wilson achieved quite a lot for the company, even if he is not the man to take it forward from here.

Aviva chief: 'A face that no longer fits'

Dominic O'Connell

Business Presenter, BBC Radio 4 Today programme

Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson was one of the City’s rising stars, tipped variously as the next chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC or any number of other giant financial institutions.

He took over Aviva at a low point – it had languished under his predecessor, Andrew Moss – and his common sense and speedy reforms set it on the road to recovery.

But he made a bad call in backing an attempt to redeem the company’s preference shares – a form of share that guarantees its holders a generous rate of return in perpetuity.

Aviva found a legal loophole to cancel the shares, drawing hefty criticism. Eventually the board was forced into an embarrassing climbdown.

In Aviva’s statement there are clear hints that this is not a planned change of the guard, but an abrupt decision.

The company does not have a replacement in place, and chairman Sir Adrian Montague will take on executive duties.

There is also talk about it being time for “new leadership for the next phase of development”, a standard City euphemism for a face that no longer fits.

A successor will be sought inside and outside the company, but the bookies’ early favourite will be Andy Briggs, already at Aviva as the boss of its UK insurance division

On the move

Shares in Aviva have opened up 1.7% at 473.3p following news that chief executive Mark Wilson is to step down.

Greggs' shares have suffered a torrid year so far, falling by more than a quarter. However, news this morning of better-than-expected sales growth over the summer has pushed the shares up 4%.

Aviva chief steps down

Mark Wilson

Aviva chief executive Mark Wilson is leaving the giant insurer after five years.

Sir Adrian Montague, currently non-executive chairman of Aviva, will assume executive responsibilities and Mr Wilson will remain with the company to help with transition until next April.

In a statement, Aviva said: "Mark was brought in to deliver the turnaround of Aviva. The Board and Mark believe that given the turnaround has been successfully completed, it is time for new leadership to take the group to the next phase of its development."

The company was embroiled in controversy earlier this year when it threatened to cancel high-yielding preference shares.

Unilever investor Aviva opposes Dutch move

Today Programme

BBC Radio 4


The asset management arm of insurance giant Aviva plans to vote against Unilever's proposal to move its headquarters to the Netherlands.

At the moment Unilever has a dual UK-Dutch ownership structure, but the company wants to end its 88-year twin-governance structure in London and Amsterdam.

The move would also mean Unilever would be removed from the FTSE 100 index.

David Cumming, Chief Investment Officer at Aviva Investments, told BBC Radio Four's Today programme that "we are going to vote against the proposal".

"It is disappointing to see a firm like Unilever want to leave the UK. We don't see any justification for the move."

Shareholders will vote next month.

'Unilever will struggle to get approval for Dutch move'

Today Programme

BBC Radio 4


A bit more on that move by Unilever to try and end its dual UK-Dutch ownership structure.

The motivation behind the decision to move to a single Netherlands-based structure was triggered by last year’s $143bn (£110bn) takeover approach from Kraft Heinz, which Unilever managed to repel.

But if it now wants to succeed in its proposed move Unilever needs 75% of UK shareholders and 50% of Dutch-based investors to vote in favour.

"I think they may struggle to reach 75%," says David Cumming, Chief Investment Officer at Aviva Investments.

He tells BBC Radio Four's Today programme: "For a UK shareholder... there are no upsides but there are downsides, so I think Unilever will struggle to get it done."

Unilever is a consumer goods giant that owns dozens of brands, including Marmite and Dove soap.

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