August 6, 2014 / 6:50 AM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 2-Legal & General gets profit boost from company pension deals

4 Min Read

* H1 pretax profit up 7 pct to 636 mln pounds

* Cash generation up 13 pct to 567 mln pounds

* Interim dividend up 21 pct to 2.9 pence a share

* Assets under management up 7 pct to 465.1 bln pounds (Adds quotes, detail from statement, share reaction)

By Richa Naidu

LONDON, Aug 6 (Reuters) - British life insurance and pensions group Legal & General posted better-than-expected profit in the first half of the year, boosted by sales of high-margin pension services to companies.

It said sales of so-called "bulk annuities" to firms looking to outsource all or part of their pension scheme liabilities to the insurer had more than quadrupled premiums to 3.1 billion pounds ($5.2 billion) and pushed annuity assets up 20 percent to 38.5 billion pounds.

That helped operating profit from the company's retirement business hit 188 million pounds in the six months to the end of June - above a company supplied consensus for 176 million pounds - and pretax profit climb 7 percent to 636 million pounds.

The 177-year-old life group said it was well positioned to profit from changes to the pensions market announced in March by British Finance Minister George Osborne and was developing new retirement products following the changes.

The reforms included scrapping a requirement for savers to buy an annuity, a financial instrument that pays out an income for life, from an insurer upon retirement.

While all insurers have seen their business hit, L&G has been supported by its dominant position in the bulk annuities business, which continues to see strong growth.

"It's no use us moaning and groaning about the change in the annuities market. It was the right thing for (Osborne) to do," Chief Executive Nigel Wilson told reporters on a media call.

"It's going to cause some short-term issues for those who are totally dependent on individual annuities - we're clearly not and we have to transform our business."

Insurance Mixed

While the new rules are designed to give individual pensioners more investment choices, many employers prefer buying annuities in bulk to tidy up their balance sheets and remove the liability of a owing a pension.

Wilson said L&G would also be looking at lifetime mortgages, the greater use of income drawdown products, and that the pension changes were a good thing in the long run.

The company said it expected individual annuity sales to halve in 2014 and halve again in 2015 as people with larger retirement pots move to the new drawdown products, mirroring comments from peer Standard Life on Tuesday.

Shares in Legal & General were up 0.3 percent at 1017 GMT, among the top gainers in a 1 percent weaker FTSE 100 and in contrast to insurer Friends Life, which fell 1.2 percent after its results.

L&G's insurance business posted mixed results, with premiums at its British protection business up 7 percent year-on-year, but general insurance gross premiums down 3 percent.

Operating profit at its general insurance arm fell to 28 million pounds from 39 million in 2013 after a 12 million pound hit for additional weather-related claims, the company said.

Assets under management at its Legal & General Investment Management unit, the division that invests on behalf of the insurer and external clients, climbed 7 percent to 465.1 billion pounds.

$1 = 0.5939 British Pounds Reporting by Richa Naidu; Editing by Simon Jessop and David Clarke

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