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Pru’s Asian misadventure: a cautionary tale


PRUDENTIAL/By Clara Ferreira-Marques

Prudential’s ill-fated Asian adventure has left the company and its management badly bruised. But it has offered at least two valuable lessons for ambitious executives tempted onto the acquisition path by post-crisis, “once-in-a-lifetime” deals.

Lesson one: It’s not 2007 any more, Toto.

Lesson two: Disregard shareholders at your peril.

On the first, bold mega-deals that once impressed the market now seem to mostly unsettle both investors and regulators.

Unease at the Financial Services Authority — and a need to tick every box — was responsible for the unprecedented and damaging last-minute delay to Pru’s offer details last month.

For that, Prudential can thank the financial crisis, but also Royal Bank of Scotland’s near-fatal role in the hubristic and record takeover of ABN Amro — despite shareholder misgivings and clear signs of an impending crisis.

Cutting back on household bills


The energy regulator has said that it is considering a ban on unjustified price differences in the energy market to address concerns that customers are being charged differing amounts according to their payment methods.

Ofgem also said that it was planning measures that will improve customer service, including simplified information about tariffs to help people decide whether they need to switch supplier.

Sorry Darling, Davos is for Mandy

If there were any questions over who is number two in British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s cabinet, Davos might have helped clear them up.

While Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling is giving the annual gathering of global big wigs a miss, business minister Lord Peter Mandelson has found the time to go.

Preparation key to riding out recession


cash-3.jpgWe are living in uncertain times. House prices are falling, the economy is slowing and consumers are under the cosh from the fall-out from the credit crunch, which is sending borrowing costs higher.

Preparation is the best defence for your finances. As Karen Torson, partnerships business manager at the Cheshire Building Society, says: “An uncertain economy can cause worry for many individuals, but taking the time to ensure you are well prepared can provide peace of mind and make a big difference — whatever the future holds.” Whatever might lay ahead, our top tips should help:

The little white lie that could spell financial ruin


cash.jpgA little white lie never hurt anyone, right? Wrong: it could have serious financial implications for your future. A growing number of people are getting into financial difficulty at a younger age and are then telling lies on applications forms to obtain credit, insurance and other products, according to CIFAS, the UK’s fraud prevention service.

The number of application fraud cases filed on the CIFAS database increased from 62,000 in 2004 to 77,000 in 2007, an increase of more than 24 percent. In each of these cases, people told “material falsehoods” on application forms or supplied false or altered documents to support them. The lies most frequently told included trying to conceal a poor credit history or exaggerating the length of time resident at a particular address in the belief that stability increases creditworthiness.

Stub out and save

It’s “national no smoking day”, and stubbing out could help your wealth as well as your health. The 1.1 million Britons who quit a year ago have collectively saved more than 1 billion pounds by not feeding their nicotine habit, according to Yorkshire Bank. Meanwhile, the 13 million people who’ve carried on puffing since “no smoking day” last March have seen almost 12.5 billion pounds-worth of potential savings go up in smoke.

“It’s all too easy for long term smokers to forget just how expensive their habit actually is, but those smoking just 10 cigarettes a day could easily save almost 1,000 pounds during the course of a year,” says Gary Lumby, Yorkshire Bank’s head of retail. “By putting the money they’d normally spend on cigarettes in an ISA (individual savings account) or high interest savings account, smokers will soon see those savings adding up, particularly if there is more than one smoker in the household.”