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Business News

Thiam faces calls to quit from angry investors

The Prudential's chief executive, Tidjane Thiam, is expected to face a barrage of questions from angry investors at the insurer's general meeting in London, tomorrow, amid growing disquiet at the board's handling of the botched deal to buy AIG's Asian insurance arm for $35.5bn (£24bn).

Though institutional investors have pulled back from formally tabling a resolution of no confidence in Mr Thiam and his chairman, Harvey McGrath, furious private shareholders are expected to add to the pressure on the pair to quit.

So far, the two have resolutely refused to bow to pressure to resign following the collapse of the firm's failed attempt to purchase AIA.

But there is a widespread opinion within parts of Prudential that the pair should resign within the next few months, or cause further harm to the company's image.

One insider said: "They've done nothing right throughout this deal, but quitting would be a start."

Mr Thiam and Mr McGrath are also facing a backlash from angry banks that signed up to help underwrite the firm's $20bn rights issue needed to fund the deal, but received nothing as the purchase failed.

One banker said: "The lead banks pocket tens of millions and we get sweet FA. This is a royal mess."

Despite avoiding the public spotlight, institutional investors are continuing to work in the background to secure an orderly succession to Mr Thiam, with two top-20 investors saying he should quit.

One said: "Tidjane and Harvey think that by linking arms and blaming market conditions, they can somehow survive. Nobody wants them to go straight away, but there is an inevitability they will have to go in the medium term."

Another added: "Collectively, as shareholders, we have brought this deal down and we now need to follow it through, boot these two out and get some value out of this stock."

A host of potential candidates to replace Mr Thiam have been touted recently, including Mike McLintock, who runs Prudential's asset management business M&G. But he is thought not to want the job.

"McLintock takes home more than £4m a year – why would he want to take the strain of the top job for less cash," said a source familiar with the situation. "I'd stick my money on someone like Andy Haste, who has a strong following among investors for his work at RSA."

Mr Haste has been credited with turning around RSA, the general insurer, which was in dire straits on his arrival. And last year, he was tipped for a top job at Zurich, the European insurance giant. Meanwhile, Prudential's forced abandonment of the AIA deal has focused investors' minds on the company's break-up.

Resolution, the insurance firm led by Clive Cowdery, has been cited as a likely bidder for the UK business. A source said the firm has funding from banks that would enable it to pursue such a deal if the business is sold off. Analysts estimate the business is worth around £5bn.