The Pru tops market with £1.9bn profit

PRUDENTIAL chief executive Tidjane Thiam answered critics and reassured investors with full-year results ahead of expectations yesterday.

The Pru’s IFRS operating profit was up 24 per cent to £1.94bn, up from £1.56bn in 2009 and 12 per cent higher than consensus forecasts of £1.6bn.

The UK’s biggest insurer also reached out to investors angered by Thiam’s failed $35.5bn (£22bn) bid for Asian insurer AIA by rebasing its dividend and increasing its full-year payout 20 per cent to 23.85p.

Thiam said the results were due to a “disciplined approach to capital allocation, proactive risk management and focus on profitability.”

Sales by annual premium equivalent increased 23 per cent to £3.5bn from £2.84bn in 2009, when they grew at just one per cent.

Its Asian businesses, where sales grew 24 per cent to £1.5bn, have been growing at record levels for the past six quarters and remitted £233m cash to the group in 2010, it said.

Thiam said the strategy was to accelerate growth in the region further. “We estimate the size of the Asian middle class at 1.9bn, so we consider that we are only scratching the surface and have a lot of room to grow,” he said.

Prudential’s US life business Jackson recorded the highest profit in its history, at £1.2bn, a 28 per cent increase on 2009. IFRS operating profit in the UK was up 11 per cent at £673m. Its shares closed 4.9 per cent higher at 749p.