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Media Release
08 May 2009

A merger proposal announced today by Australian Unity and Lifeplan Funds Management would combine two of Australia’s leading mutual companies and result in a diversified financial services group with anticipated funds under management of more than $7 billion.

The merger proposal, which has the unanimous support of the Boards of both companies, is subject to the approval of Lifeplan members, as well as regulatory and court approvals. Special meetings of Lifeplan members will be held in Adelaide to vote on the merger proposal.

The merger would:

  • Cement Lifeplan’s leadership position as Australia’s largest provider of investment bonds and funeral bonds - with almost $2 billion in these specialist products - following the transfer of Australian Unity’s $455 million funeral and investment bonds business to Lifeplan’s Adelaide based operations;
  • Further diversify the Australian Unity Investments business, of which Lifeplan would become a part, to reach $7 billion in total funds under management. The combined business would benefit from the highly complementary nature of Australian Unity Investments’ funds management expertise and Lifeplan’s specialist product skills; and
  • Provide an expanded membership and customer base, with Lifeplan retaining its Adelaide head office and continuing to expand its business in the eastern states.

The Lifeplan brand would be retained and customers would continue to deal with the company in the same way they do currently.

“Future strength”

The merger plan follows extensive discussions between both companies and is driven by two key objectives – to create greater strength for future growth and to provide more diverse products and benefits to both companies’ members and customers.

“We see this as a rare opportunity to combine the experience of two complementary Australian companies that both have strong histories providing valued products and services to members,” Australian Unity Group Managing Director, Mr Rohan Mead, said today.

Lifeplan’s Managing Director, Mr Chris Wright, said “This merger proposal is all about being better placed than our competitors to achieve future growth.”

“We believe our members will see this as a great outcome for them. They will become part of a larger, more diverse mutual group with a member focused culture. The Lifeplan name and brand will be retained, our product range will continue and be enhanced, and the business will remain head-quartered in Adelaide, which is important to many of our members.”

Australian Unity’s Group Executive for Investments, Mr. David Bryant, said the Lifeplan business would become the centrepiece of a specialist business in the investment bonds, funeral bonds and education savings plan markets.

“The merger enables us to utilise Lifeplan’s specialist product skills, while Lifeplan will benefit from the recognised expertise of Australian Unity Investments in funds management. Our complementary skills will enable us to further grow inflows and funds under management, and the expanded business will benefit from synergies in a number of areas,” Mr Bryant said.

Mr Wright also announced Mr Matt Walsh as his successor for the Lifeplan business, having last year informed the Lifeplan board that he would be retiring in 2009 after more than 40 years with the Company, the past 18 as chief executive.

Mr Walsh is a long-serving Lifeplan executive who in recent years led the overhaul of Lifeplan’s product portfolio and its national expansion program. “Lifeplan, as a leading niche provider, fits perfectly well with Australian Unity Investments’ strategy and philosophy. Our interstate expansion, already well under way, will receive an important boost,” Mr Walsh said.

About Australian Unity Australian Unity is a national financial services, health care and retirement living company focused on providing products and services that foster wellbeing for its members, customers, employees and communities. The organisation has more than 400,000 customers, with funds under management of $5.5 billion, revenue of over $600 million and 1250 staff.

About Lifeplan Lifeplan Funds Management, a specialist funds management organisation, is a market leader in the investments bond and funeral bond markets, and a leading provider of education savings plans. Lifeplan also offers loans and term deposits through its building society. Lifeplan has $1.5 billion in funds under management, and employs 130 people.
Both Australian Unity and Lifeplan have operated as mutual companies for almost 170 years. Each company has evolved through successful mergers between similar mutual organisations and they share some of the same antecedent organisations from different States.

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Matt Walsh

General Manager - Life and Super