Admiral ends Confused sale talks as Tesco eyes price comparison market

Admiral ends Confused sale talks as Tesco eyes price comparison market

UK insurance group Admiral has ended discussions with private equity firms over the sale of a minority stake in its price comparison Web site Confused.com after failing to agree a price.

In a statement Admiral says the potential minority investors typically expressed an interest with an implied valuation of the entire business in the range of £600 million to £650 million.

Admiral did not disclose the size of stake sought by the private equity buyers, but it is rumoured to have been about 25%.

The group has now ended the sale and described the private equity demands as "significantly more onerous than the board had anticipated".

"The board has therefore concluded that this weakening in its flexibility to determine the strategy of Confused would restrict the ability to maximise Confused's potential as part of the Admiral Group in the medium to long term," says Admiral in a statement.

Admiral said in May that it had received approaches from several parties regarding a sale of Confused. At the time analysts estimated the company could be worth up to £700 million.

Market speculation had also focused on whether Admiral was looking to sell off its price comparison business ahead of the launch of a rival service by Tesco Personal Finance, a 50:50 joint venture between the supermarket and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

Tesco Personal Finance is thought to be gearing up to launch an online price comparison service in the autumn. Spokesman Matthew Dransfield confirmed that the supermarket bank has registered the domain name tescocompare.com but refused to comment further.

Meanwhile another comparison site, moneysupermarket.com, is set to float on the London Stock Exchange at the end of July. It has set an indicative price range of 170 pence to 210 pence per share for its listing, which values the business at £1 billion.

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