Bottom Line: Prudential aims to be different

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The Independent Online
PRUDENTIAL Corporation is aiming to put even more distance between itself and its woollier-thinking competitors. It is still putting the finishing touches to its strategic review, but the main conclusions are already clear. It will concentrate on life and pensions business in the UK and the US, perhaps also in Australasia and the Pacific Basin, but not in Europe. It will remain a general insurer only where this complements the core long-term business, such as UK home and motor insurance. Despite much speculation to the contrary, the Pru will not (and cannot) sell its Mercantile & General reinsurance arm - partly because it cannot untangle the dismal general side from the profitable life operation, and partly because no one would buy M&G without watertight indemnities against further losses (which would negate the purpose of selling it).

But the most interesting development will be Prudential's attempt to differentiate itself from its rivals. One possibility was suggested yesterday by Mick Newmarch, the group's ebullient chief executive. He said the Pru might take a lead in providing better and clearer information to its policyholders.

A final dividend of 7.8p raised the total by 8.2 per cent to 11.9p a share. The Pru's shares have come a long way since we recommended them at 236p in September, and they still look good value at 329p.

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