Aviva triumphs in first quarter

INSURER Aviva underlined its commitment to the UK and Europe as its first quarter life and pensions sales numbers beat City forecasts yesterday, slipping just five per cent.

Investors’ returning appetite for risk, which in recent weeks has also buoyed rivals Standard Life and Legal & General, helped Aviva bring in £9.1bn in new life and pensions business. Although sales were down from £9.6bn a year earlier, the company had lowered expectations by circulating analyst forecasts of an 11 per cent year-on-year drop to £8.5bn. The much-watched UK life and pensions sales number rose two per cent to £2.6bn, indicating a recovery in Aviva’s home territory.

Total investment sales were up 40 per cent to £1bn, while long-term savings product sales in the key European market were up nine per cent to £5.7bn.

Sales in the US almost halved with a 48 per cent drop year-on-year, but chief financial officer Patrick Regan told City A.M. a degree of moderation had been expected. He pointed out sales were gathering pace across the board quarter-on-quarter.

Regan said: “Taken together, our numbers bode well for the remainder of the year, albeit we are still operating in an uncertain environment... We are quietly optimistic.”

In contrast to Prudential, which is staking its future on a blockbuster takeover of AIA in Asia, Regan said Aviva still saw significant growth opportunities in the UK and Europe.

Aviva viewed Asia as a “long-term play”, he added, and would continue to try and build value in the region through the relatively low-cost route of bancassurance joint ventures.

Shares in Aviva slid 1.6 per cent to close at 333.6p.