Steel Bid For Bigger Conseco Stake Rebuffed

May 30 2008 | 2:00am ET

Fresh off its groundbreaking victory in Japan, activist hedge fund Steel Partners has received a rude awakening back at home.

The New York firm on Thursday saw its bid to more than double its stake in insurer Conseco Inc. firmly declined. Carmel, Ind.-based Conseco explained that such a move “is not in the interest of all shareholders” and would reduce its “financial flexibility.”

Steel, which owns a 9.8% stake in Conseco, had wanted to up its stake to as much as 22%. The hedge fund has pushed Conseco to improve its return of equity, arguing that it has been “slow to implement the strategic review process.”

Conseco rejected that claim in a letter to Steel, writing that it took the strategic review seriously, and “we strongly disagree with the suggestions to the contrary.”

Earlier this week, a Steel-backed effort to oust most of the board of directors of Japanese wig maker Aderans Holdings succeeded, the first major victory for an activist hedge fund in Japan.

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