Aviva is beaten but unbowed after its failure to buy rival Prudential and is now believed to be after another target.

Richard Harvey, Aviva's chief executive, is understood to have lost standing in the City after the £17bn deal failed to come off. If the merger had succeeded, the business would have been worth some £36bn.

Some sources now even tip Aviva itself as a bid target.

Harvey later revealed that 14 Aviva staff that had been working on the Prudential deal were now available to look at other targets.

The Prudential board had refused to enter talks with Aviva, because it viewed the approach as hostile.

There is now speculation that AXA, Canada's Manulife or Italy's Generali could be in the frame for Prudential. It has also been mooted that HSBC is considering launching a bid.

Last week, Prudential shares fell to 681p while Aviva was up at 831p. As Insurance Times went to press, both companies' shares had fallen. Prudential's stood at 668.5p and Aviva dropped to 826p.