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'Learning and Waiting' for China: Prudential CEO

Wednesday, 14 Nov 2012 | 6:43 AM ET

Asia will continue to drive profits for British insurer Prudential as the continent eclipses its home market , the company's CEO told CNBC Wednesday, with the company hoping to benefit from growth in China.

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The company reported a sales increase of 14 percent in the first nine months of 2012 largely boosted by its new Asian businesses.

Year to date profit in Asia is up 15 percent to 828 million pounds ($1.3 billion).

Tidjane Thiam, CEO at Prudential told the European edition of CNBC's "Squawk Box" that he was very pleased with the results but any future acquisitions in Asia would be on a "very selective basis."

The company has made inroads into markets in Asia where it had a very limited presence including Indonesia, Taiwan and Thailand.

Thiam said the company would be tapping the new and emerging middle class there with Pru's suite of protection and healthcare products.

Thiam added that China would play an increasingly large role in the company's future and was keen increase the group's relatively small exposure to the world's second largest economy.

"It's an extremely attractive market and we are learning and waiting for such time that the regulation changes and the demographic challenges it faces with an aging population and hopefully we will be there to do what we do best," he said.

He said the U.K. would play an ever smaller role in the company's fortunes, a strategy the company has been vocal about for some time.

The company invested around five times more in Asia over the last four years than in the U.K. – in 2012 the company invested 22 million pounds in the U.K. versus 162 million pounds in Asia.

"We're managing the U.K. very well and it's important to us but the new capital is invested in the growing economies of the East," he said.

The shift has not come without criticism however.

Rating agencies, among them Standard & Poor's, have threatened the company with a downgrade from its current A rating, citing its moves towards riskier emerging and developing markets as the main reason.

"The rating agencies consider growth outside the established markets is riskier but the financial markets clearly do not agree with that so somewhere there is a disconnect," Thiam said, adding that the company was effectively being penalized for successfully implementing its Asian plan.

Thiam said the company's edge was its track record globally but would be avoiding the most highly competitive markets because of the difficulty in creating value there.

-By CNBC's Shai Ahmed; Follow her on Twitter @shaicnbc

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