Prudential Said Picked as Preferred Bidder for Thanachart Assets

Prudential Plc (PRU) was picked as the preferred bidder for some of Thanachart Bank Pcl’s insurance assets, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The companies are discussing price and no agreement is imminent, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. Reuters reported in March that Thanachart Bank’s insurance business was valued at about $500 million.

Thanachart Bank, part owned by Canada’s Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS), has also been contacted by other potential bidders and may engage in discussions with those companies, one of the people said. The person didn’t identify those parties.

Thanachart Bank has three insurance units -- Thanachart Insurance Co., Thanachart Life Assurance Co. and Siam City Life Assurance Co., which it acquired during the 2010 merger with Siam City Bank Pcl. President and Chief Executive Officer Somjate Moosirilert said in April the lender was considering selling its insurance businesses.

Somjate declined to comment on the sale in a phone interview, as did Prudential spokesman Jonathan Oliver.

Thanachart Life had assets of 20.5 billion baht ($664 million) as of December 2010, according to its website. Siam City Life had assets of 12.2 billion baht as of Aug. 31, the company’s website shows.

London-based Prudential, the U.K.’s biggest insurer by market value, said in August its first-half operating profit rose 13 percent to 1.16 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) on earnings from Singapore and Indonesia.

Prudential’s shares have rallied 29 percent this year as it avoided the European sovereign debt crisis by focusing on selling life insurance to Asia’s growing middle classes and pension products to baby boomers in the U.S. The insurer, which gets 80 percent of its revenue from outside the U.K., is midway through a plan to double profit in Asia from 2009 levels.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cathy Chan in Hong Kong at kchan14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Philip Lagerkranser at lagerkranser@bloomberg.net

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