Ex-Pru boss waits to crash $35bn AIA deal

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The Independent Online

The former Prudential chief executive Mark Tucker and the Resolution chief Clive Cowdery, are believed to be working on plans that could see them join forces with the Chinese insurance giant Ping An, to enter the fray should the Prudential fail to seal its bid for AIA.

Prudential's chief executive, Tidjane Thiam, spent last week in Asia attempting to seek approval from regulators in the region for the $35.5bn takeover of AIG's insurance arm.

But with many investors yet to be convinced of the merits of the deal – coupled with what one fund manager described as "the terribly amateurish antics" of Prudential in the past few weeks – it is believed that Mr Tucker and Mr Cowdery are sounding out potential backers for a consortium that could see the break-up of the Pru. The two insurance chiefs met last week in London, following a meeting in Hong Kong the previous week.

It is believed that the pair discussed plans which could see them join forces with Ping An, which is led by a former colleague of Mr Tucker, Dominic Leung, who used to run Prudential's Taiwanese business.

"Nobody is suggesting that they will go hostile but they are waiting in the wings to see what happens," said a source close to the situation. "If support for Pru's deal starts to wane then Tucker, with his contacts in the region, could spoil the party."

Resolution had been in talks with Prudential over the possible purchase of its UK business earlier this month, but Mr Thiam ended negotiations to concentrate on winning support for the AIA purchase instead.

Mr Thiam, who was recently forced to abandon plans to join the board of Société Générale following a wave of investor anger, is currently courting fund managers in an effort to get them to support a $21bn rights issue – needed to fund the deal.

Any carve-up of the Pru could see Ping An take on an enlarged Asian business while Mr Cowdery's Resolution would buy the UK business.

Earlier this month Ping An ruled itself out of a bid for AIA, saying that it was not interested in teaming up with the Pru for any bid. However, it is thought China's second-largest insurer may be tempted to resurrect a possible offer with Mr Tucker on board.

A spokesman for Resolution confirmed that Mr Cowdery had visited Mr Tucker in Hong Kong, but said it was in a purely personal capacity. He added that the pair had promised to meet in the region "donkey's years ago".

Last week, Resolution, which owns the insurer Friends Provident, unveiled disappointing results. However, the group promised its increasingly frustrated band of investors that it was on track to agree a second takeover deal this year.

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