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British insurer appoints Frenchman as boss

LONDON, March 20 – British insurance group Prudential on Thursday named Frenchman Tidjane Thiam as its new chief executive and revealed that the group had plunged into the red last year.

Thiam, who was born in Ivory Coast and has French nationality, is currently financial chief and will take up the new job in October.

"The board is pleased to announce that Tidjane Thiam, chief financial officer, will succeed Mark Tucker as group chief executive with effect from 1st October 2009," Prudential said in a statement.

His appointment was announced alongside news that the company faced a pre-tax loss of 2.1 billion pounds (3.0 billion dollars, 2.2 billion euros) in 2008 amid the global financial crisis.

That compared with a pre-tax profit of 3.8 billion pounds in 2007, Prudential said in an earnings release. The figures were calculated under the EEV standards for "embedded value" — an accounting method for indicating the earning potential of a company, commonly used for insurance firms.

Thiam, 46, is a former Ivory Coast government minister who left the cocoa-rich African country after a military coup in 1999. He has worked for Prudential since March 2008, prior to which he worked at rival Aviva.

"I am delighted at this opportunity," Thiam said on Thursday.

"Mark is an outstanding chief executive, who has transformed Prudential into a strategically focused, efficient and very strongly capitalised business."

"It will be a privilege to work with the Executive team to lead Prudential into its next stage of development."

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Tucker, who has been with the group for a total of 25 years, gave no specific reason for his departure.

"Prudential announces that Mark Tucker has informed the board that he intends to step down as chief executive on 30 September 2009 after four and a half years," the group said.

The firm added that the 2008 net loss, measured according to IFRS international accounting standards, stood at 396 million pounds. That contrasted sharply with profit of 947 million pounds in 2007.

However, the group\’s operating profits rallied 17 percent to 2.96 billion pounds in 2008.

"These results represent a very strong absolute and relative performance in quite exceptional circumstances," said Tucker in the results statement.

He added: "It is clear that 2009 will be a challenging year. Indeed, there is an increasing likelihood that in some parts of the world recession will continue into 2010.

"However, the global economy will ultimately rebound — albeit at different times and different speeds in different markets."

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