U.K.’s Prudential Set to Gain Cambodia License in First Quarter

Prudential Plc, the U.K.’s biggest insurer by market value, plans to begin selling insurance in Cambodia in the first quarter of next year to extend its presence in Asia across 13 markets.

The firm is hiring sales agents and expects to gain a license to operate in the country in the first three months of 2013, Barry Stowe, chief executive officer of Prudential’s Asian division, said in an interview in Hong Kong Nov. 20. The London- based company received “in principle” approval for a life insurance license in July.

“It should be very shortly,” Stowe said in the interview. The Cambodian regulator has “asked us to be operational by the end of the first quarter so we have a team on the ground, we are hiring, we are getting our products developed and approved.”

Cambodia, which has a population of about 15 million, is one of the southeast Asian countries that Prudential CEO Tidjane Thiam calls the “sweet spot” of the region, because of its high economic growth and developing middle class. Prudential gets almost half of its sales from Asia, where its profit margins were 62 percent in the first nine months of this year, higher than its U.K. and U.S. units.

“The potential is great” in Cambodia, Stowe said, comparing it to Vietnam, which Prudential entered more than a decade ago. Sales in Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines rose 27 percent to 90 million pounds ($144 million) in the first nine months of the year, according to company filings.

At the time “people asked if it was worth it,” Stowe said. “Now we are probably the most prominent brand name for financial services in the country with over two million customers.” The average annual premium in Vietnam is about $200 compared with $700 in Indonesia and $2,000 in Singapore, he said.

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