Aberdeen CEO Wants to Stay Independent Amid Buyer Interest

Leaders With Lacqua: Aberdeen Asset's Martin Gilbert
  • Martin Gilbert sees potential buyers from Australia to Europe
  • Money manager says recovery in emerging markets ‘inevitable’

Aberdeen Asset Management Plc, under pressure after almost three years of outflows, has resisted interest from competitors from Europe to Australia seeking to buy the asset manager and plans to remain independent, according to Chief Executive Officer Martin Gilbert. The shares rose.

“I’ve never tried to sell the business but we do get a lot of people wanting to buy us,” Gilbert said in a Bloomberg Television interview with Francine Lacqua. “So far, we have managed to resist. There’s been a lot of interest, but being independent is a massive benefit to us.” The company has never had a formal approach, a spokesman for the firm said.

About 1.8 billion pounds ($2.6 billion) was erased from Aberdeen’s market value in 2015, leading to speculation that the company would be sold. Gilbert has consistently said that he wants the emerging-market asset manager, which he founded in 1983, to avoid being taken over. The stock rose as much as 5.4 percent, the most since April 13, and was trading at 275.6 pence at 2:18 p.m. in London trading.

“Asset management is a great business because the return on capital is so high, it’s profitable and it’s predictable, so there has been a lot of interest,” he said. Gilbert expects to be at the helm in five years, he said.

Aberdeen’s outflows included at least $13 billion in sovereign-wealth fund assets as investor appetite for developing economies soured. The firm, which oversees about 292.8 billion pounds, is now Europe’s third-largest publicly-traded money manager behind Schroders Plc and Amundi SA.

“It’s better to be number one than number three but we can get by,” he said. “Size does matter in the asset-management business, especially if you are managing money for the biggest sovereign-wealth funds in the world.”

Gilbert, whose investment career spans more than three decades, said a recovery in emerging markets was “inevitable” given two thirds of the world’s economic growth will come from that region. The CEO expects to see inflows return this year as investors continue to unwind their short positions.

“I don’t worry about the things that I can’t influence,” he said in the interview. “The key is to find the right companies and countries. It’s a very important region to invest in.”

Aberdeen’s largest shareholders are Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., which holds more than 17 percent, Lloyds Banking Group Plc, and The Capital Group Companies Inc., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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