James Moore: Thiam takes Pru into the corporate champions league

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The last time Prudential tried a mega-deal its eyes were focused on the US in the form of American General. AIG broke that one up.

It's a mark of the shift in world economic power to the east that this time Asia is the venue for Prudential's attempt to join the corporate champions league, and the now bombed-out, state-owned AIG is the vendor.

It's not hard to see why. Asia offers growth, and lots of it, with a youthful demographic and limited "free" state services, leaving private-sector operations like Prudential to fill in the gaps.

Unlike his predecessor, Jonathan Bloomer, Prudential's chief executive, Tidjane Thiam, pictured, looks like he might pull this one off. He appears to have learnt the lessons of the past, carefully courting investors before taking the plunge rather than springing a surprise on them. Prudential shares fell sharply, down 72.5p to 530.00p yesterday, but the prep work should prevent that from causing any real problems, by contrast to what happened to Mr Bloomer – just as long as the shares settle down over the next few days.

Mr Thiam has created a major splash after being in the job only a matter of months. Yesterday's deal was a talking point even at HBSC's results, with all the issues the banking group throws up.

The stuffy old Prudential of the past is gone. Mark Tucker did the preparation work, but Mr Thiam has just taken the business on to a whole new plane, worthy of being talked about in the same breath as the mighty bank. If he pulls it off, who knows, people might even (finally) stop patronisingly talking about him as the FTSE 100's first black chief executive.