Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pru Leaps on Buzz of China Targeting Asia Arm Takeover; MARKET ROUND-UP

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pru Leaps on Buzz of China Targeting Asia Arm Takeover; MARKET ROUND-UP

Article excerpt

Byline: Russell Lynch

TRADERS were piling into the Prudential today as reports of Chinese interest in one of the UK's grandest names pumped up the stock.

More than five million shares in the insurer changed hands, helping them 22p higher to 621.5p, amid hopes the company, which botched its own $35 billion ([pounds sterling]23 billion) deal to buy AIA this year, could find itself on the takeover menu.

Reports suggest that a host of Asian big-hitters including Guo Guangchang, the chairman of Shanghai-based conglomerate Fosun Group, as well as Goldman Sachs' former Chinese chief Fred Hu could make a bid to buy the Pru's Asian arm, after previously backing the insurer's efforts to buy AIA and take a strategic stake in the business.

Chief executive Tidjane Thiam just about survived the debacle of the collapse of the AIA deal and has set the firm back on its previous "business as usual" path, but the mooted Chinese interest encouraged the hopes of the rumour-mongers that major investors could yet decide to push for a break-up of the venerable insurer.

The interest in the Pru prompted a general hoovering-up of insurance shares across the board, with Aviva up 7.5p to 327p, Legal & General adding 2.5p to 100.1p and Standard Life 3.6p better at 218.3p on a good day for the sector.

The wider FTSE 100 index pushed to a five-month high, up 57 points to 5558.65, as dealing rooms began to pick up the pace after the summer slumber and banking reforms from the weekend meeting in Basel were viewed benignly.

Heavyweight blue-chip miners underpinned the advance, after a raft of encouraging economic data from China over the weekend helped stave off worries of a fiscal clampdown from the world's second-biggest economy to tackle inflation.

The country's latest producer prices and consumer prices figures were "Goldilocks data" according to one market commentator: "not too hot, not too cold, just right". Of the Footsie's legion of mining stocks, Kazakhmys was the biggest beneficiary, cheering 44p to 1330p. Vedanta Resources and Anglo American added 64p to 2102p and 61p to 2567p. …

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