- Just group said adjusted operating pre-tax profits rose by 35% to £220.6m in the year ending December, supported by a continued focus on margin over volume, as well as the benefits of the merger synergies.

IFRS profit before tax for 2017 was £181.3m, an increase of 5% compared to 2016.

New business operating profit was £169.8m for 2017, an increase of 37% compared to the prior year, boosted by margins growth to 9.0% from 6.8%.

The margin improvement was achieved through risk selection, pricing discipline, lower unit costs from synergy savings, and more efficient asset-liability management.

The in-force operating profit was slightly lower for the year at £71.3m, down 5% from £75.3m the previous prior period, mainly as a result of tightening corporate bond spreads.

The firm recommended a final dividend of 2.55p per share, bringing the total dividend for the year ended 31 December 2017 to 3.72p per share, up 6% from the previous year.

Rodney Cook, Group Chief Executive Officer, said: 'I am hugely proud of all that we have achieved during 2017. We helped more customers than ever before to achieve a fair, secure and fulfilling retirement. The Group also delivered on the promise of the merger for shareholders. We increased operating profit by 35%, driven by our focus on profit over volume and by our relentless pursuit of merger synergies.'

'Our capital structure and financial flexibility also improved during the year. We recently put our new investment grade credit rating to work and issued a £230m Tier 3 bond on attractive terms, adding to our capital strength.'

'Our focus is shifting back from integration to innovation, and we are investing in our business to grow in new areas and to diversify our sources of revenue. The results in 2017 reinforce our belief that we have a sustainable business model in growing markets which will deliver well into the future.'

At 8:20am: [LON:JUST] Just Group Plc share price was +4.95p at 139.95p

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