Aviva and Prudential are the most likely to gain from consolidation in the UK life assurance industry, according to Deutsche Bank.
Deutsche Bank's analysts also believe Resolution will ultimately succeed in its attempts to purchase Friends Provident.
The investment bank made its predictions as it upgraded Aviva to a ‘buy' stock, while downgrading L&G shares to ‘sell'.
Deutsche Bank says the impact of the RDR on the IFA distribution channel, coupled with tax changes and the introduction of personal accounts in 2012, will lead to falling sales in the sector.
As a result, the role of back books will become more valuable, and the firm says Aviva and Pru's larger back books will benefit them in the future.
Friends Provident is likely to be the first UK quoted life firm to be purchased, given its relatively small size and recent approaches by the Resolution consolidation vehicle.
Smaller foreign players also likely to go sooner rather than later, according to Deutsche Bank, which says: "we see ZFS and AIG as most likely to exit in the early stages, given their savings bias."
Those firms relying on tied or commission-taking advisers for distribution will also suffer, it adds, as banks take much the basic advice market, while fee-based IFAs handle high-end clients.
Deutsche Bank believes Prudential and Aviva would have the most to gain from selling their UK business, with much of their value derived from back book management, as opposed to new sales.
Meanwhile, Standard Life could become a major buyer of UK assets, despite its modest size.
"Given [Standard Life's] well-regarded management team, a loyal retail shareholder base and a relatively strong position to ride out the effects of RDR, we see the group as a more likely potential buyer than seller," Deutsche Bank says.
It predicts Resolution will eventually succeed in its acquisition of Friends Provident, and says the move will ultimately benefit Friends as it cannot continue as a stand-alone operator.
The next bout of consolidation is also expected to happen relatively quickly, with much occurring prior to 2012, when RDR and Personal Accounts come into force.
Resolution has vowed to fight on with its approaches for Friends Provident, and a hostile takeover attempt may be a possibility if the board fail to agree a deal.
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