British insurance takeover specialist Resolution is in advanced talks to buy rival Phoenix Group
for 1.2 billion pounds in shares, the Sunday Times reported without citing sources.

Resolution, founded in 2008 by entrepreneur Clive Cowdery to buy underperforming life insurers and merge them into a more profitable whole, is close to securing a deal after presenting its plans last week to heavily-indebted Phoenix's bank creditors, the paper said.

Resolution and Phoenix both declined to comment

Resolution faces competition from Swiss Re, whose Admin Re unit specialises in buying up life insurers such as Phoenix that are closed to new business, as well as buyout firm CVC.

An offer of 1.2 billion pounds would represent a 40 percent premium to Phoenix's closing price of 488.5 pence Friday, which valued it at about 859 million pounds.

Phoenix's shares have fallen by a fifth since the start of the year, underperforming an 18 percent drop in the European insurance share index <.SXIP>.

($1 = 0.633 British Pounds)

(Reporting by Myles Neligan; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)