Pru shares rise

Hopes that a fresh offer for Prudential could be tabled saw shares in the life assurer rise up to 743.5p this week - well above the level at which it rebuffed rival Aviva's formal offer.

Aviva's paper bid values Prudential at just over 700p, although dealers have speculated that it could sweeten the offer, or another predator may declare its hand.

It is thought that other potential bidders could include Allianz, AXA, AIG, Italy's Generali or Canadian financial services group Manulife.

Fox-Pitt, Kelton speculated that Aviva could offer as much as 850p, while Numis said a price of at least 750p a share may be justified. Aviva was trading at 839p as Insurance Times went to press.

Traders noted there has been a considerable number of mergers in the US life sector and Europe could be about to catch up. Recent deals have included Lincoln National buying Jefferson Pilot, AXA snapping up Mony and MetLife purchasing Travelers Life & Annuity.

Traders also gossiped that the American St Paul Travelers Company may be exploring the possibility of a tie-up with Swiss company Zurich Financial Services.

Old takeover favourite Royal & SunAlliance was trading at a three-and-a-half year high of 141p as Insurance Times went to press.

' Yvette Essen is stock market reporter and insurance correspondent for The Daily Telegraph