Aviva profits to fall in advance of great sell-off

AVIVA is expected to announce a fall in profits this week as its new executive chairman John McFarlane prepares to flesh out proposals to streamline the business with a series of disposals.

The firm adopted a radical change in direction following the resignation of former chief executive Andrew Moss in May, pleasing investors who felt the firm had become too bloated.

McFarlane, who has taken control on a temporary basis, swiftly set out plans to sell or close down around a quarter of its 58 business units, starting with the sale of a substantial stake in Dutch firm Delta Lloyd.

But his efforts come too late for this Thursday’s results, with a consensus forecast suggesting that first-half operating profits will be £1bn, down 10 per cent on the same period last year.

Analyst Kevin Ryan at Investec said the firm is on the up, with the Delta Lloyd sale a “clear sign that the company is determined to change its shape, becoming slimmer and more competitive in its chosen markets”.

“As Aviva’s disposal programme gathers momentum, we expect the shares to re-rate,” he added.

On Thursday investors will expect more detail on the businesses lined up for sale, particularly Aviva’s troublesome US unit, which consumes a substantial amount of capital.

Meanwhile rival insurer Prudential is expected to announce much improved half-year results on Friday, with forecasts predicting a seven per cent increase in operating profits to £1.1bn, largely thanks to growth at its Asian business.