Prudential profits buoyed by U.S. and Asia

LONDON Wed Mar 12, 2014 5:31am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain-based insurer Prudential (PRU.L) has delivered a 17 percent rise in operating profit for 2013, driven by robust sales in Asia and strong earnings in the United States.

Reporting full-year earnings on Wednesday, Prudential said its operating profit under IFRS accounting rules was 2.95 billion pounds ($4.91 billion) in 2013, at the top end of analyst forecasts.

Sales increased 5 percent to 4.4 billion pounds, led mainly by double digit growth in its core Asian markets.

Meanwhile, robust fee income in the United States, where Prudential operates the Jackson brand, helped lift group profits, the company said.

Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam said the group had achieved a series of growth targets set in 2010 and it would continue to focus on harnessing trends such as a growing Asian middle class and America's baby boomers reaching retirement.

"Our business, which used to rely on the UK for IFRS earnings and to fund all its cash needs, is now well diversified not only in terms of IFRS earnings but also in terms of cash," he said.

At 0920 GMT, Prudential shares were up 3.7 percent at 1,411 pence, the biggest rise on the UK's benchmark FTSE-100 index

.FTSE.

Prudential also announced it had agreed to extend and expand a bancassurance partnership in Asia with Standard Chartered

(STAN.L).

The new agreement, whereby Standard Chartered distributes Prudential life products, will last 15 years and cover 11 markets, starting in July, Prudential said.

The deal follows one agreed by Citigroup (C.N) and AIA (1299.HK) in December, which also runs for 15 years and covers 11 countries.

Standard Chartered (STAN.L), which makes more than 90 percent of its profits in Asia, Middle East and Africa, last week said it wanted to lift its profits from wealth management by doubling its assets under management to $300 billion by 2020, from $137 billion at the end of 2013.

"This is another good set of results from Prudential. The Asian business is proving resilient in the face of Asian EM (emerging market) currency volatility and macro-economic growth concerns, whilst the U.S. business has benefited from rising equity markets and strong flows," said analysts at Bernstein Research.

In December, Prudential set itself a goal of at least 10 billion pounds of cumulative cash generation by the end of 2017, which it sees being driven by its Asian businesses.

"At the heart of our future prospects is Asia. We are pursuing the increasing demand for protection products from the rapidly growing middle class in our chosen markets across the region," Thiam said on Wednesday.

Prudential also announced a 15 percent increase in its full-year dividend to 33.57 pence per share.

($1 = 0.6014 British Pounds)

(Additional reporting by Steve Slater; Reporting by Chris Vellacott. Editing by Matt Scuffham and Mark Potter)

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