Axa shares up despite 9pc fall in life revenues

FRANCE’S biggest insurer, Axa, said its life and savings division had been hit by the slowing global economy but said its UK pensions business was growing fast yesterday.

Axa said life and savings revenues, which make up the lion’s share of its business, fell 9.3 per cent to €39.8bn (£24.9bn) in the first nine months of the year compared to the same period in 2010. That caused Axa’s overall revenues to fall 4.8 per cent compared with 2010, to €65.9bn.

Despite this, its shares soared by almost 15 per cent on optimism after the late-night deal struck between Eurozone leaders on Wednesday.

Axa played down the poor performance in its life division, where net inflows almost halved to a net €4.5bn in the first nine months of 2011.

“We are in line with our strategic plan,” chief financial officer Gerald Harlin said. “We stand by all the commitments we have made.”

Describing the economic climate as “difficult,” he said Axa’s balance sheet was solid and its exposure to peripheral Eurozone debt was marginal.

Revenues from property and casualty insurance rose 3.8 per cent as Axa raised its prices, while Axa Wealth, its UK-based pension business, saw assets rise 9.6 per cent to £18.3bn.