Fitch downgrades Prudential on United Kingdom demerger

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A rise in Prudential (LON:PRU) has also lent support to the FTSE 100 after the company unveiled plans to split.

Regarding its demerger plans, the company said that M&G Prudential will become a capital-efficient UK & Europe savings and investment provider, while Prudential plc will be an insurance group focused on high-growth opportunities in Asia, the U.S. and Africa.

British insurer Prudential plans to spin off its United Kingdom and European business from its global operations, a move aimed at better focusing on faster growing markets such as Asia and the US. Prudential's primary listing will be in Hong Kong.

'One may assume the United Kingdom interests (M&G Prudential) will be less appealing to investors as the non-UK interests have experienced faster growth, ' says Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

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"The decision to demerge M&G Prudential follows a rigorous review by the board which considered all options, including the status quo, and concluded that it is in the best interest of the group to operate as two separately-listed companies, able to focus on their distinct strategic priorities in their chosen geographies", Paul Manduca, Prudential's chairman, said.

Prudential also announced today the sale of £12bn of its annuity portfolio to Rothesay Life.

In preparation for the United Kingdom demerger process, and to align the ownership of the company's businesses with their operating structures, Prudential plc intends to transfer the legal ownership of its Hong Kong insurance subsidiaries from The Prudential Assurance Company Limited to Prudential Corporation Asia Limited, which is expected to complete by the end of 2019. It is also subject to regulatory and shareholder approval.

The UK benchmark index has gained ground in London in today's session, with upbeat data out of China, the world's top metals consumer, propping up mining stocks. 'This suggests total capital release potential of c£3.3bn assuming that the entire £34bn United Kingdom annuity portfolio is eventually divested, ' comments Cathcart.

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Growth was again driven by Asia, which delivered a 15% rise in operating profit and a 12% increase in new business profit.

Asia new business profit was up 12 per cent, mainly as a result of prioritisation of health and protection products and positive pricing actions.

Total revenue, net of reinsurance, was 86.56 billion pounds, up from 71.84 billion pounds a year ago. While its Asian arm returned new business profits of £2.37bn, up 17% from 2016, the United Kingdom and Europe generated just £342m of new business profits, although this was still 28% higher year-on-year. The Prudential dividend policy will remain unchanged through the separation period.

The company improved its capital strength with Solvency II surplus rising by 6% to £13.3bn and the ratio increasing by 1 percentage point to 202%.

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"I am confident that, given the extent of our opportunities and our proven ability to execute and innovate, we are well positioned to continue to grow profitably", said Mr Wells.

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