Prudential’s chairman on Tuesday said he continued to see “substantial value” in taking over AIG’s Asia business and that the substance of the planned $35.5bn deal looked better than when the company first expressed its intention in March.
Harvey McGrath, speaking to reporters in Hong Kong, said he expected a significant amount of the group’s shares to be traded in the city and in Singapore in a few months’ time.
Pru shares made their trading debut on the two Asian stock exchanges on Tuesday, a move designed to raise the British insurer’s profile in Asia ahead of its planned acquisition of AIA.
But the shares in both markets were lower than their last closing price in the UK as equities staged a broad retreat across Asia.
In Hong Kong, the shares fell to a low of HK$56.60, more than 5 per cent less than the dollar equivalent of their Monday closing price in London. The stock later recovered to HK$57.20, in line with a 3.5 per cent decline in the Hang Seng index.
The shares were also weaker in Singapore at US$7.39, having recovered from an earlier low of US$7.30.
The Hong Kong and Singapore listings are by way of an “introduction”, meaning some of the insurer’s London-listed shares have become eligible for trading in Asia. No new shares have been issued and the primary listing remains in London.
Mr McGrath said he expected investor demand in the region to drive the portion of Pru shares trading in Hong Kong and Singapore to 10-20 per cent within months, compared with the current 2 per cent.
The Pru is battling to win shareholder support for a $21bn rights issue to fund the takeover of AIA. The support of Asian investors is expected to play a crucial role in the success of the rights issue.
Mr McGrath said he expected “a fair bit of interest” in Asia for the rights issue, but failed to quantify potential commitments from the region’s investors.
Pru is struggling with investor scepticism over the takeover. The Financial Times revealed on Tuesday that Mark Wilson, AIA’s chief executive, had told friends and industry executives that he would quit if the Pru succeeded in its takeover.
Mr Wilson has said he will step down once the deal closes because the proposed combination of the two Asian businesses is “ unworkable”.
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