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Aviva to compensate preference share investors with £14m payment

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Aviva is to make a one-off goodwill payment of £14m (€16m) to shareholders who lost money when the FTSE 100 insurer announced plans in March to cancel £450m worth of preference shares.

Investors who held the shares saw the value of their holdings drop in the wake of the announcement – which the insurer subsequently moved to cancel following what Aviva described as “strong feedback and criticism”.

This morning the company – which owns the £352bn asset manager Aviva Investors – said it would offer a “discretionary goodwill payment” for those who had sold their shares at a loss between 8 March and 22 March inclusively.

“This goodwill payment is intended to put those shareholders in the same financial position they would have been in had they sold their preference shares following the 23 March announcement, rather than the first announcement,” the company said in a statement.

An estimated 2,000 individual investors sold their preference shares between 8 March and 22 March.

Mark Wilson, group chief executive officer of Aviva, said the aim of the payment was to “do the right thing”.

He added: “We accept that whatever action we take, we will continue to hear divergent views on this topic from various stakeholders.  However, together with our previous announcement not to proceed with the cancellation of the preference shares, we hope this goodwill payment goes some way to restoring trust in Aviva.”

The insurer currently faces a review of its actions by the UK regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – although chief executive Andrew Bailey has emphasised that it was not yet conducting a formal investigation.

However, the FCA has written to companies that have issued preference shares in an attempt to foster greater awareness among investors of any factors that might affect the value of their investments.

Companies issuing preference shares should ensure their investors were in possession of all the facts, Bailey wrote in the letter, including access to terms and conditions and being kept abreast of any changes.

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