Pressure mounts on Pru boss appointed just eight months ago
Wednesday 02 June 2010
Prudential has declined to comment on whether its chief executive, Tidjane Thiam, would receive a bonus this year after the failed bid he fronted for AIA cost shareholders an estimated £300m.
Mr Thiam is paid a basic salary of £900,000 but can, for his work during the company's current financial year, take home a further £1.6m through the life insurer's annual bonus scheme with a further £2.7m available through its share-based long-term incentive plan. A Prudential spokesman said that bonus payments would not be decided on until the end of the year.
The company's results will be hit by a £153m break fee if, as now expected, its takeover of Asian insurer AIA fails. However, advisory and underwriting fees to a phalanx of banks, lawyers and public relations advisors are set to at least double that; even though the deal looks all but dead and success fees will not be payable as a result.
Mr Thiam will take the lion's share of the blame among many investors, who have been infuriated at what has been seen as poor communication from the company and its advisors since the AIA transaction was announced. Several analysts suggested that Mr Thiam's position would be open to question if the deal failed to go through before the attempted renegotiation with AIA's owner AIG failed.
Mr Thiam, a former finance minister of the Ivory Coast and senior executive at Aviva, had been finance director of Prudential while the company was run by Mark Tucker; who is widely credited with turning Prudential's Asian business into the engine of the company's growth while in charge of the operation. When Mr Tucker was hired as chief executive, after a brief stint as chief executive of HBOS, he did much to restore Pru's reputation among investors after a series of mishaps.
Having worked closely with Mr Tucker, it was hoped Mr Thiam would continue the Prudential revival and help it build on the momentum it had established when he took over as chief executive last October.
Robin Geffen, chief executive of fund manager Neptune, who acted as a focus for the efforts of dissidents to vote down the deal, stopped short of calling for Mr Thiam's immediate resignation after the AIA debacle. However, he did say: "I think it is going to be very difficult for him after this. The fees that have been spent on this are massive."
David Buik, partner at BGC Partners, said it would not be impossible for Mr Thiam to survive. But he added: "He will be told severely to get back in his box and get on with his work at Prudential."
Mr Buik said he could see "both sides" of the deal's collapse and Mr Thiam's enthusiasm for the Asian region. But he said that a $35.5bn takeover was a step too far, particularly at a time of highly volatile markets when stock markets around the world have been falling.
Mr Thiam will embark on a second day of institutional meetings with big British investors today, after spending yesterday locked in discussions with fund managers who have been deeply unhappy with the company's handling of the deal. Sources close to the company sought to play down resignation talk, however, saying it would not be in shareholders' interests to endure significant change at the top.
The last time Prudential tried tried a "transformative" acquisition, was its attempt to merge with American General, the US life insurer. That led to the company facing a chorus of criticism, although the deal ultimately failed in 2001, ironically, when Pru was outbid by AIG, the owner of AIA. As a result, it pocketed a break fee of its own.
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