The business on...Tidjane Thiam, Chief executive, Prudential
Saturday 06 August 2011
He's still there, then?
If you're referring to the calls last year for Mr Thiam to step down, it really is time to move on. Yes, Prudential's aborted bid for AIA in Asia was an expensive and embarrassing failure, but Mr Thiam has bounced back.
Yesterday's first-half results show Prudential's profit was up by 17 per cent in the first half of the year. Even better, shareholders are getting a 20 per cent rise in their dividend – that should silence the big-mouths who wanted Mr Thiam out.
How did they pull that off without AIA?
In a way that rather validates Mr Thiam's reasons for wanting the acquisition in the first place. Most of Prudential's growth is coming from Asia, where the company is now growing organically rather than through deals.
Maybe shareholders should have let him buy it after all
Maybe, but the price wasn't right. Still, the episode does seem to have been a lesson to Mr Thiam, whose style is notably more accommodative these days – some shareholders said privately that one reason they gave the boss a bloody nose over AIA was that he was a little too arrogant for their liking.
But no longer?
To be fair, it's a moot point whether he was arrogant in the first place. But maybe Mr Thiam did just begin to believe his own publicity – his appointment at Prudential in 2009 prompted a string of articles focused on his ferocious intellect, the fact that he was the first black FTSE 100 company boss, and that he had served as a minister in the government of Ivory Coast.
Has there been less of that sort of stuff of late?
That looks to have been a deliberate decision. Mr Thiam has alwaysmaintained that he hates seeing his own face in the papers, but since the AIA debacle he has been much less high-profile – the odd interview about Prudential's numbers, but that's about it. The reverse charm offensive seems to be working.
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