Early this morning Premier Miton Group PLC (AIM:PMI) confirmed media reports that it has been in talks with River and Mercantile Group (LSE:RIV) and made an approach about a potential takeover.

It might have hoped this had cleaned up the matter.

But R&M also confirmed that it has also been approached by AssetCo PLC (AIM:ASTO), whose chairman Martin Gilbert is also deputy chairman of R&M and which also confirmed the news an hour later.

READ: River and Mercantile approached by Premier Miton and AssetCo

All three say no firm offer has been tabled yet, however, so this story could yet run and run or it could stumble over any number of hurdles.

First of which, both AssetCo and Premier Miton say any possible offer will be conditional R&M’s previously agreed sale of its Solutions business to Schroders, which was announced last month for GBP230mln and still requires shareholder approval.

If shareholders do approve the Solutions sale, R&M will be ‘refocused’ as a specialist asset manager, with management saying their aim would be to diversify and grow the “investment capability, product range, and geographic exposure”.

R&M floated in 2014 after the Punter Southall Group sold its PSigma Asset Management to Miton and merged its consultancy arm P-Solve with River and Mercantile Asset Management (RAMAM), which at the time had GBP2bn in assets under management after being founded by James Barham in 2006.

RAMAM last year operated 14 equity strategies and is hoping to launch an infrastructure fund in the coming months.

Suitable suitors?

A cash shell until January this year, AssetCo may be the smaller of the two suitors at under GBP150mln versus Premier Miton’s near GBP300mln, but its chairman Gilbert is perhaps the bigger presence.

Although the company said he will be recusing himself for the purposes of this transaction as he also has held a board seat at R&M since January too, Gilbert is best known as the founder of Aberdeen Asset Management, which later merged with Standard Life to become Standard Life Aberdeen and lately Abrdn PLC (LSE:ABDN).

He and former Aberdeen colleague Peter McKellar parachuted into AssetCo with plans to go back to square one with a buy-and-build strategy.

This year the early stages of their acquisitive drive has seen the purchase of Saracen Fund Managers for GBP2.75mln in May, a 63% stake bought in Rize ETF Ltd for GBP16.5mln and a 30% equity interest in Parmenion Capital Partners for up to GBP27.8mln, both in July.

The AIM-listed company also owns a 5.85% stake in R&M.

Premier Miton, meanwhile, is also the product of M&A, with Miton merging with Premier Asset Management in late 2019 to create a group with assets under management of GBP11.1bn.

Chair Robert Colthorpe is no Johnny-come-lately, either, with more than a couple of decades as a corporate financier, though he’s probably less well known in the sector as one of the group’s fund managers, Gervais Williams, a king of the small cap scene.

Even though the RAMAM prize is hardly going to be a heavyweight prize once the sale to Schroders goes through, fans of the sweet science know very well that two wily bantamweights duking it out can be just as intriguing to watch as the big swingers.

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