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AIA deal: Why big Pru shareholders upset

In China, Insurance on 14/05/2010 at 5:16 am

“You sell billions of cheap stuff to buy billions of expensive stuff,” James Clunie, manager of the 1.5 billion- pound Scottish Widows fund, said in an interview in Edinburgh on May 7. “It’s a bad deal. It doesn’t look sensible,” reported the FT.

He was referring to fact that Pru is trading at around 1 x Embedded Value* and in return Pru is buying AIA for 1.69 X EV, when AIA’s two major markets S’pore and HK are not inmature insurance markets .  The Pru is paying in their view for blue skies in China, where AIA has a presence but nothing to shout about unlike the big Chinese insurers who are trading at 2 X EV.

He is not the only one upset. The largest single shareholder with 12%, Capital Mgt is upset. One of its fund mgrs has set up a site advocating that someone pls bid for Pru and split it up.

Warren Buffett if he had been a Pru shareholder would agree with them.  “You simply can’t exchange an undervalued stock for a fully-valued one without hurting your shareholders,” he recently said. And he had earlier criticised Kraft for placing out its shares at lower prices than it had earlier bot back shares, in order to finance the Cadbury takeover, illustrating the problem companies face when buying back in what in retrospect is a bear market. http://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/03/03/buybacks-problematic-in-bear-markets/

*“Embedded value” (the sum of net assets plus the current value of future profits from existing policies) assumes that an insurer will write no more new business, nor make any gains on its investments. That is why most recent deals in mature markets have been completed at about 1.2 times – a small premium for control, for cost synergies, and for growth potential. The 1.69 times that the UK insurer is proposing to pay seems bullish, given that AIA’s two biggest markets by gross written premiums are Hong Kong and Singapore, already overrun by agents. FT

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