Asian growth adds to speculation of Prudential moving its base from UK

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INSURANCE giant Prudential’s fast-growing Asian business generated more profits than its UK arm for the first time during 2011, according to yesterday’s full-year results.

The group, which was founded in London in 1848 and has major operations in Stirling, said Asian profits rose 32 per cent to £709 million and have now nearly trebled in the past three years, driven by the booming middle class’s appetite for life insurance and other savings and protection products.

That compares with profits growth of just 1 per cent to £683m in the UK, where sales fell as it focused more on higher margin products and Asia. Overall group operating profits rose by 7 per cent to £2.1 billion but the stellar performance in Asia will add to speculation it will move its domicile to Asia as a result of European Union plans to force it to horde more capital.

The Pru confirmed it is considering its position, but said it fears the new rules will place it at a “competitive disadvantage”.

Prudential added that it was increasingly moving away from its traditional business model of being reliant on the UK life assurance business for its cash generation.

Chief executive Tidjane Thiam said: “The heart of our strategy remains Asia, where our positive momentum has been maintained in 2011. Asia is generating both growth and cash and our focus on the fast-growing markets of South-East Asia continues to pay off.”

The Pru held its final dividend at 17.24p, which – when coupled with the higher interim pay-out – means the total divi for 2011 is up 5.6 per cent to 25.19p.