Pru backs top man over new SocGen role

PRUDENTIAL has defended chief executive Tidjane Thiam’s decision to take a second board role at another company in the middle of the firm’s gargantuan takeover of American International Assurance.

Thiam is due to be nominated as a non-executive director of French bank Société Générale in May, and will start a four-year term in the summer. Although he will be expected to attend at most 12 board meetings in a year, some investors are concerned at the timing of the appointment.

Prudential is on the verge of tapping its shareholders for a $20bn (£13bn) rights issue to part-fund its $35.5bn buyout of AIA, the Asian arm of American International Group. Thiam has already irritated certain investors by asking for their backing after providing scant details on the deal and the huge fundraising.

Last night, one fund manager with a significant stake in Prudential said: “He’s going to be a busy boy. This company isn’t a one-man-band but we are mindful of calls on [Thiam’s] time. We would express mild surprise and will be seeking assurance next time we see him that his time won’t be diverted too much.”

SocGen will be glad of French-speaking Thiam’s experience as it continues to recover from the €4.9bn (£4.4bn) rogue trading scandal that erupted in January 2008.

But a Prudential spokesperson said the Paris-based bank had given “explicit recognition” that demands on Thiam’s time would be light this year as he concentrates on the rights issue and pushing through the merger with AIA. Thiam gave up his most recent non-executive post at French chemicals group Arkema when he became CEO in September last year.