Insurer Aviva says profits climb in first half

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British insurer Aviva revealed on Thursday that first-half profit jumped 21 percent, lifted by rising sales in Asia and Europe, sending its share price rocketing by more than eight percent.

Aviva, Britain's second largest insurer after Prudential, said operating profit rose 21 percent to 1.27 billion pounds (1.53 billion euros, 2.0 billion dollars) in the six months to June, compared with the same part of last year.

That beat market expectations of 1.15 billion, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

Long-term savings new business sales, meanwhile, climbed by four percent to 20.24 billion pounds in the reporting period.

In reaction, Aviva's share price leapt to the top of London's FTSE 100 index of leading companies, surging 8.05 percent to 397.5 pence in late morning deals. The FTSE was down 0.44 percent.

"This was a good half year for Aviva. We achieved a 21-percent increase in operating profits, grew sales for the third consecutive quarter and improved the group's margin," said chief executive Andrew Moss in the results statement.

He added: "Our first-half earnings are tangible evidence of the progress we've made in the last few years, but there's more to do.

"We will continue to focus on customers and on the disciplined allocation of capital to ensure we grow Aviva profitably.

"While we remain alert to the macroeconomic environment and risks in financial markets, Aviva has excellent franchises in proven growth markets and we are confident about the future."

The company also lifted its interim shareholder dividend by six percent to 9.5 pence per share.

© 2010 AFP

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