Upbeat Pru eyes US and Asian expansion

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The Independent Online

Prudential's recovery under its new group chief executive, Mark Tucker, continued during the first quarter of the year, with the insurer seeking acquisition targets in the US and Asia.

Pru announced a 27 per cent rise in new business across the insurance group, but saidyesterday it is increasingly reliant on its US and Asian divisions for growth, with the focus in the UK moving to higher-margin products.

Mr Tucker said the company would continue to look for bid targets in the US and Asia, where new premium income rose 22 and 47 per cent respectively to £167m and £226m compared with the same quarter last year. In the UK, new business rose 17 per cent to £244m.

"Overseas markets represent the best growth opportunities for the group," said Mr Tucker, who replaced Jonathan Bloomer last year, after a difficult period for Pru that culminated in a £1bn rights issue in 2004. Ironically, yesterday's figures showed Mr Bloomer's strategy of international expansion has been the biggest source of new income for his successor.

Pru's Jackson National Life subsidiary in the US has grown strongly because of demand from a 77 million-strong generation of baby boomers seeking products aimed at pre-and post-retirement financial planning.

In Asia, Pru's businesses in Korea, India and Taiwan performed strongly. A joint venture in China also produced a 50 per cent increase in sales.

Roman Cizdyn, at Oriel Securities, said Pru's trading update had exceeded expectations but worries persisted about its UK operations. "The implication may be that Pru does not need the full £220m left over from the rights issue for its UK business," he said.