Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fine Start, but Can Pru's New Man Keep It Going?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fine Start, but Can Pru's New Man Keep It Going?

Article excerpt

Byline: ANTHONY HILTON

THE City being the cynical place it is, there are sure to be some who say today's new business figures from the Prudential are just too good to be true and must have been quietly pumped up a bit to justify the insurance company's summary rejection a few weeks ago of the unwanted bid from bigger rival Aviva, the Norwich Union group.

After all, the best defence against a bid is strong organic growth. But while it is one thing to beat analysts' forecasts by a modest amount, it is quite another to knock them right out of the ground as the Pru has done. In the first quarter just ended, it has delivered 27% new business growth, which is virtually twice what most analysts were expecting.

It risks making them look asleep on the job, and some of them clearly have not been paying attention.

Chief executive Mark Tucker promised maximum focus on delivery and profitability since the day he arrived, and is now delivering on that promise - as indeed are the people on the ground whose straining sinews actually deliver the numbers.

As expected, it is Asia that has set the pace with a 47% year-on-year increase in the life business and an astonishing 147% jump in asset management. The UK delivered a morethanrespectable 17% increase on life and a 38% inflow of new funds into M&G, while in America Jackson Life grew by 22%.

The trouble is Tucker has made something of a rod for his own back because today's stellar performance becomes tomorrow's jumping-off point. Investors will know intuitively that it is unrealistic to expect the Asian figures to maintain their growth rate as the business gets bigger but too much slackening would undermine his efforts to prove that the business now has real momentum. For the moment, however, it is a great start and if he can do this again for the next few quarters, it should silence the doubters. …

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