RSA boosts dividend despite a massive drop in its profits

RSA INSURANCE yesterday posted pre-tax profits down 24 per cent in the first half of the year, as it unveiled a seven per cent dividend hike that it said underlines its positive outlook.<br /><br />The general insurer, which operates the &ldquo;More Than&rdquo; brand in the UK, posted profits of &pound;301m, compared to &pound;395m made in the same period last year, thanks to a slump in car and house insurance sales due to the downturn. But it said it would increase its interim dividend seven per cent to 2.9p.<br /><br />Chief executive Andy Haste said: &ldquo;We have a healthy deal pipeline and we&rsquo;re particularly seeing a lot of activity in emerging markets&rdquo;<br /><br />The group said operating profits were boosted by a strong underwriting performance, rising two per cent year-on-year to &pound;183m. But this does not include investment returns, which fell 13 per cent to &pound;270m.<br /><br />Overall, the group wrote four per cent more insurance premiums, taking the total to &pound;3.48bn.<br /><br />&ldquo;RSA has delivered another good set of figures. The underwriting performance will drive the share price at least in the short to medium term,&rdquo; said Panmure Gordon analyst Barrie Cornes.