Prudential unveils Asian stock market listings

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The Independent Online

Prudential yesterday set the date for its Hong Kong listing and said it planned to add Singapore to the growing list of exchanges where its shares can be traded.

The life insurer, battling to complete a $35.5bn (£23bn) takeover of AIA, the Asian business of the US insurer AIG, will make its debut on both Asian exchanges on 11 May. Documents ahead of each of the listings will be published on 5 May.

News of the secondary Asian listing will increase the speculation that the insurer's ultimate aim is to quit the UK in favour of the world's fastest-growing economic region. The company has sought to dampen this down by insisting that Prudential is a British company whose UK operation remains a "core part of the business".

Chief executive Tidjane Thiam returned to the theme yesterday, saying: "The UK has been, and will remain, the largest market for our investors and we are committed to our London listing". Still, if the deal completes and the company's succeeds with its $21bn rights issue, Asia will be by far its biggest and most important business unit.

And the company desperately needs the help of investors in the region if it is to successfully complete the cash call, which will fund the lion's share of the deal. Some UK shareholders have privately expressed concerns about the transaction, and whether it is in the interests of existing investors.

Mr Thiam added: "The two new listings will enable investors in Asia to participate in the outstanding growth potential that Prudential offers. Prudential has a rich and extensive history in Asia, operating in Hong Kong for nearly 50 years and Singapore for over 75 years, and today's announcement reaffirms our long-term commitment to both these markets."

The company does not have a happy history with big-ticket mergers – an attempt to buy American General, the US life insurer, in 2001. collapsed, ironically after it was outbid by AIG. AIA's integration will be handled by Prudential's UK chief and the company has not commented on roles at the enlarged business.

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