Tidjane Thiam, the chief executive of Prudential, has come out fighting by personally insisting he will put £1.5m of his own money into the rights issue to fund its $35.5bn (£25bn) bid for AIG's Asian business, as he seeks to gain investor support for the cash call.
The pledge over the weekend to take up his full allocation in the $20bn rights issue came as it emerged that parent AIG had dusted off plans to list its Asian division, AIA, in the event of Prudential's takeover failing.
Following criticism that senior Prudential executives could use a "get-out" clause in its 930-page rights issue prospectus launched last week, the vow by Mr Thiam in a Sunday newspaper to take up his full £1.5m of rights will be seen as an attempt to settle the nerves of investors, and a tacit acknowledgement that the deal hangs in the balance.
It is thought that Harvey McGrath, the chairman at Prudential, and Nic Nicandrou, the insurer's finance director, will also take up their rights.
Last week, Mr Thiam and Barry Stowe, who runs Prudential's Asian operation, kick-started a series of crucial meeting with investors to try to gain their support ahead of the vote on the cash call on 7 June.
The $20bn cash call was delayed earlier this month after the Financial Services Authority questioned the amount of capital that the enlarged Prudential would have to hold.
Doubts have been raised about whether Prudential will be able to achieve the 75 per cent support it needs to pass the rights issue.
"If they fail to get 75 per cent, then the top management should all walk. If they get more than 50 per cent and try to get the deal passed in some other way, then there will be an almighty backlash in the City," one of the top 20 Prudential stockholders told The Independent on Sunday (IoS).
Meanwhile, AIG, the ailing parent of AIA, is said to have asked Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank – the lead underwriters on the planned AIA flotation before it was ditched in favour of the Prudential offer earlier this year – to "refresh its analysis".
A source told the IoS that the banks had reassured AIG, which is about 80 per cent owned by the US government, that they could "still get a flotation away at an attractive price". Other reports suggested that advisers to the US Treasury had approached a number of Asia's biggest financial institutions, including China Life and Ping An Insurance, to gauge their appetite.
Prudential will on Tuesday commence a dual primary listing of its shares in Hong Kong and a secondary listing on the Singapore Stock Exchange. Prudential declined to comment yesterday.