Prudential cuts the cost of AIA bid failure

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Insurance group Prudential has announced that the cost of failing to buy Asian business AIA was less than it first estimated.

The Pru had initially said it would lose £450m on the failed deal, but now puts the final figure at £377m.

The update came as the firm reported a 19% rise in underlying operating profits for the first half of 2010.

It also confirmed it would not bid again for AIA and said no further big takeover attempts were planned.

"We are focused on an organic growth strategy. Large inorganic transactions are not on the agenda," chief executive Tidjane Thiam said.

Speculation has surrounded Mr Thiam's future since the high-profile failure of the AIA takeover, for which he has publicly apologised.

But he said he believed he and the chairman had the support of "the body of our shareholders".

"You can only operate on that basis really," he added.

"I hope that these results... will contribute to give confidence to our shareholders in the fact that we are running this company in the way it should be run."

'Extremely good'

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Underlying pre-tax operating profits at the Pru totalled £845m in the first six months of 2010, up from £711m a year earlier.

James Bevan, chief investment officer at CCLA Investment Management, said the Pru had announced "an extremely good set of results".

He added that there was now a "reasonable chance" that the failure to buy AIA would be forgotten.

"Asia is going really well," said Mr Bevan. "A lot of people have been really concerned that the Pru would announce it was going to pull back or sell, or otherwise downgrade its operations there.

"Far from it, it has come out all guns blazing, that it is going to grow its investments there really well."

The Pru abandoned its agreement to buy AIA, the Asian business of US insurer AIG, on 2 June.

It had agreed to buy AIA for $35.5bn (£22.6bn) in March.

Prudential shares were trading less than 1% lower by mid-afternoon at 559 pence.

Its shares have recovered after dipping below 490p in the aftermath of the aborted takeover attempt.

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