Man from the Pru begins City charm offensive

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The Independent Online

Tidjane Thiam, the chief executive of Prudential, will begin a whistle stop tour of the Square Mile this week in a effort to persuade angry fund managers that a $35.5bn (£24bn) purchase of AIG's Asian insurance business makes sense.

The investment community, many of whom are forced to buy shares in Prudential because of the company's position in the FTSE 100 index which they track, vented their fury last week at Prudential's swoop for AIA with one describing it as one of the most "irresponsible and reckless" act of management the City had seen in long time.

So after a largely successful week in Asia, which ended on Friday in Bangkok, Mr Thiam heads back to London to try to persuade disgruntled investors to back the $20bn cash call to fund the acquisition. Mr Thiam is likely to say that Prudential will sell around £1bn of the AIA assets it acquires in an effort to pay down a slug of debt taken on by the company to fund the deal.

"He'll need to do a heck of a lot more than that to get many of us on board with this," said one leading fund manager who declined to be named.

Speculation surfaced on Friday that Axa, the European insurance heavyweight, could come in with a bid for Prudential, taking advantage of the firm's weakened share price – down 15 per cent over the course of the week.

But sources played down the likelihood of Axa making a bid, citing the insurer's already messy arrangements in Asia and the currency exposure that the French firm would face in trying to fund the deal.

Resolution, which is expected to lose its coveted FTSE 100 status this week, denied last week that it was in negotiations with Prudential over the sale of its UK business.

Confusion also continued over the role of UBS, Prudential's broker, which has been forced into taking a back seat role during the bid and the cash call.

"It's a huge slight for a house broker to be treated the way UBS has been," said one banker. "It's absurd to suggest that UBS didn't have the appetite for the underwriting risk. This is free money."

A source close to UBS said: "To say UBS has been frozen out is too much but clearly it would have liked to have been more involved."