* Mulls "bolt-on" fund management, general insurance deals
* H1 operating profit 518 mln stg vs 498 mln stg consensus
* Shares down 1.8 pct, underperforming market
LONDON, Aug 7 British life insurer Legal &
General will carry out small takeovers to help underpin
growth as the economy falters, its new chief executive said on
Tuesday, unveiling forecast-beating half-year results.
L&G, Britain's fourth-biggest insurer, said small deals in
fund management or general insurance could help offset the
"prolonged austerity" and macroeconomic shocks it expects across
the world, particularly in the troubled euro zone.
"You'll probably see some bolt-on acquisitions - the balance
sheet is very strong and there are lots of assets for sale,"
Nigel Wilson told reporters on Tuesday as he presented his first
set of financial results since becoming CEO last month.
"We'll retain our strategic and financial discipline, but
there will be a lot more opportunities to accelerate our growth
through bolt-on acquisitions."
The 176-year old insurer has traditionally taken a cautious
approach to takeovers, spending about 300 million pounds
($468.48 million) on two deals during the six-year tenure of
Wilson's predecessor, Tim Breedon.
No deals are imminent, Wilson added without saying what size
of acquisition L&G was interested in.
Britain's fourth-biggest insurer said it should also benefit
from rising demand for pension products in Britain, where many
workers have not saved enough for their retirement,
L&G made an operating profit of 518 million pounds ($809
million) in the first six months of 2012, outstripping the 498
million pencilled in by analysts in a company poll.
The improvement reflected strong sales of corporate and
housing protection insurance, driving a 15 percent increase in
profits at L&G's risk division.
L&G shares were down 1.8 percent at 1053 GMT,
underperforming a flat Stoxx 600 European insurance share index
The stock is still up 27 percent so far this year, outpacing
the sector's 14 percent rise. Analysts say the shares have
benefited from L&G's limited exposure to the euro zone as well
as expectations of steady dividend increases as the group
focuses on generating more cash.
"It's tough out there, and they've produced numbers that are
up a bit, but there's not enough here to drive upgrades," Oriel
Securities analyst Barnard Marcus said.
L&G is paying an interim dividend of 1.96 pence a share, up
18 percent, and ahead of the 1.93 pence expected by analysts.
L&G's stock yields 5.5 percent based on analysts'
expectation of a 7.2 pence per share payout over 2012 as a
whole, L&G's Wilson said, compared with just 1.6 percent for
10-year British government bonds.