StockMarketWire.com - Aviva reported Thursday a rise in profits led by growth in its life business, though weakness in its fund management businesses capped gains.

For the 12 months ended to 31 December, pre-tax profit rose 6.3% to £2.13bn and operating earnings per share was up 7% to 58.4p.

Operating profit across its business rose to £3.12bn for the year, from £3.06bn in the year earlier.

The rise in operating profit growth from its life business was partly offset by subdued operating profit from its general insurance and health businesses as well as its fund management business.

Aviva’s life business increased operating profits by 5% to £3.0bn for the year. General insurance and health operating profit were flat at £704m.

Fund management declined 11% owing to choppy markets seen last year.

'We increased profit in the UK, where we won more workplace pension schemes and bulk annuity deals, and across our international businesses, where we expanded and diversified our distribution. Aviva Investors had a more challenging year due to difficult investment markets and we have continued to invest in our asset management expertise,' the company said. The value of new business fell 3% to £1.20bn from £1.24bn.

The solvency II coverage ratio, or the amount of capital it is required to hold under EU rules to cover rose to a record 204% from 198% a year earlier.

The insurer increased its dividend by 9% to 30.0p per share, though the company did say it would rate its dividend growth to support debt repayments and investments into the business.

Looking forward, the company said its capital management plan would prioritise debt reduction for the foreseeable future.

'We plan to reduce debt by at least £1.5 billion by the end of 2022, saving approximately £90 million per year in interest expenses. This builds on the £1.4 billion of debt repaid over the past two years and will further enhance our financial flexibility,' the company said.



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