Prudential is considering possible acquisitions in the US as it tries to fend off rumours in the City that it might merge with its arch-rival Aviva, reports the Guardian .
Mark Tucker, chief executive of the Pru, said he was "continually looking" for acquisitions in the US, where the insurer has been seen as a possible bidder for the US life business put up for sale by JPMorgan Chase.
The paper says Tucker refused to disclose whether that was one of the options being considered to bolt on to its existing business in the US, Jackson National Life.
He stressed any deal the Pru decided to pursue would be "self financing" and fresh cash would not be needed. He also refused to disclose whether the insurer had held any discussions with Aviva, the parent company of Norwich Union, about a potential tie-up.
Such a merger has been regularly rumoured in the City. "We believe there is tremendous upside in our business and that we have an independent future," Tucker is quoted as saying.
Speaking as the insurer released its figures for new business for 2005, he highlighted the performance of the fund management arm M&G, which "saw the strongest retail sales in its history". He said £3.8bn of cash went into M&G funds during the year, which he put down to a good investment performance by the fund managers.
Profits for 2005 would not be published until March but analysts at Keefe Bruyette & Woods interpreted the sales figures as showing a risk profits might turn out to be disappointing.
LLOYDS TSB is holding urgent talks with the trustees of its final-salary pension schemes in an attempt to reduce its £3 billion deficit, the Times reports.
It says bank is thought to have hired Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street investment bank, to draw up options for its two final-salary pension schemes, which have 60,000 to 70,000 members.
Britain’s fifth-largest bank has come under increasing pressure to produce long-term plans to reduce or eradicate its deficit after its rivals HSBC, HBOS, Royal Bank of Scotland and Northern Rock announced plans for substantial cash injections to their closed final-salary schemes.
The paper says banking analysts claim Lloyds TSB, unlike its rivals, has limited scope for making a large immediate payment to its pension scheme, so must consider different options.
The bank is also not in a position to cut its deficit by altering or reducing benefits to members.
A court challenge nearly 10 years ago to the benefits paid out under the Lloyds pension scheme failed, leaving its members with a cast-iron guarantee.
BUSINESS leaders yesterday welcomed news the Scottish economy grew marginally faster than the UK's in the autumn of last year - but they stressed the continued importance of bolstering Scotland's sagging manufacturing figures, reports the Scotsman.
The country's production sector, which includes the struggling manufacturing industry, continued its decline over the period, with quarterly output falling by 1 per cent, while the output of the service sector rose by 0.8%.
The paper says the latest figures show Scotland's gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 0.5% over the third quarter of last year, while the GDP of the UK overall rose by 0.4%.
Over the year, Scotland's GDP rose by 1.7%, the same increase as the UK's for the period up to and including the third quarter.
The rise confirms Scotland as being within striking distance of fulfilling accountants Ernst & Young's November 2005 ITEM Club forecasts that GDP will grow 1.9% in 2006, an increase from 1.7% in 2005, but slower than the 2.2% growth prediction for the UK as a whole.
Over the year, the output of Scotland's service sector rose by 2.7%, the same as the UK figure up to and including the third quarter, while production fell by 1.3%, compared with a 1% decline for the UK.
RIGHTMOVE, the UK's leading property website, is set for a spring flotation that could value the company at more than £400m, double the initial expectation of its owners, reports the Financial Times.
The new estimates from analysts at ABN Amro are the latest sign of the fast-growing investor appetite for dotcom businesses.
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