Aberdeen Asset’s stocks jump after sell-off talk

Gilbert has no plans to leave CEO role. Picture: Neil HannaGilbert has no plans to leave CEO role. Picture: Neil Hanna
Gilbert has no plans to leave CEO role. Picture: Neil Hanna
The stock market value of Aberdeen Asset Management rose by more than £300 million at one stage yesterday despite it denying speculation that the fund manager was looking for a buyer.

A report suggested that co-founder and chief executive Martin Gilbert had been sounding out potential buyers after a fall in profitability, share price and assets under management. Shares rose by as much as 7 per cent in early trading although fell back later in the day to close up just under 3 per cent at 361.7p

Mike van Dulken, head of research at trading firm Accendo Markets, said the initial share price rise was a prime example of “buy the rumour” despite denials from the group.

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“Will further denial scupper takeover hopes or simply lead to claims of the ‘laddie doth protest too much’?” he also asked.

The sale report was strongly denied by the group.

“In his 32 years running Aberdeen Asset Management, Martin Gilbert has never made a formal or informal approach to anyone to buy the business,” a spokesman stressed.

He also rejected the suggestion that Gilbert was looking for a successor given he was now 60 and said he was determined to continue running the business for “some years yet”.

Some analysts also questioned the basis for the article, with RBC analyst Peter Lenardos saying in a note to clients that he believed it “lacks specifics”.

Although he said that Aberdeen was relatively weak currently, he said it was unlikely that it would seek a sale from such a position.

“We believe that selling now would be an admission of failure,” he said.

Lenardos said CEOs “routinely meet with industry participants to discuss ways to maximise shareholder value” and he believed that no formal sale process was under way. Shares in Aberdeen have fallen by about 25 per cent in six months.

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