Thiam pledges UK commitment after strong Asia sales

Tidjane Thiam faces protests over his �7.8m pay packet. Picture: Getty
Tidjane Thiam faces protests over his �7.8m pay packet. Picture: Getty
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PRUDENTIAL chief executive Tidjane Thiam has insisted the insurer remains committed to the UK after strong sales in Asia helped deliver a forecast-beating set of quarterly results.

The group generates more than half its profits in Asia but Thiam said the UK division was a “core part” of its strategy.

A 2 per cent dip in UK sales to £185 million for the first three months of the year, blamed on lower sales of pensions and with-profits bonds, was more than offset by a 12 per cent leap in Asian sales to £495m.

Profits for the region grew 18 per cent to £308m, lifted by strong results in Indonesia and Hong Kong. That compares with a 2 per cent rise in UK profits to £63m. Overall, the firm’s new business sales grew 8 per cent to £1 billion, ahead of the 6 per cent rise expected by the City.

Analysts have long speculated that the group may consider a break-up, but Thiam said the £7.5bn surplus within its with-profits fund made the UK division a valuable resource.

He added: “The current configuration is much debated but we believe it has been very good for our customers and shareholders. Having internal, reliable sources of cash makes us more resilient. Our commitment to serving our seven million customers in the UK is total.”

The group recently appointed former Standard Life finance director Jackie Hunt as the new chief executive of its UK and European operations. She takes up the role in October.

Thiam, who was reprimanded by the City watchdog over Prudential’s failed bid for rival AIA, was paid £7.8m last year and could face an investor backlash at next week’s annual meeting.

He refused to be drawn into a discussion about how shareholders may vote, adding: “As much as I would like to, I don’t set my own remuneration.”