LONDON, March 13 Prudential, Britain's
biggest insurer, raised its dividend by a bigger-than-expected
16 percent after continued strong growth at its flagship Asian
operations drove a forecast-beating jump in profit.
Prudential investors will get a total of 29.19 pence per
share out of 2012 earnings, surpassing the 26.65 pence expected
by analysts in a company poll, the insurer said on Wednesday.
The bigger payout, which contrasts with dividend cuts from
British rivals Aviva and RSA, reflected a 25
percent jump in Prudential's 2012 operating profit to 2.53
billion pounds ($3.77 billion), ahead of the 2.33 billion
pencilled in by analysts.
Prudential, founded 165 years ago in London, has avoided the
economic turbulence afflicting its European competitors thanks
to a strong focus on fast-growing Asia, the source of nearly
half its sales.
Shares in Prudential have risen 43 percent in the past year,
more than double the 21 percent gain achieved by the wider
European sector. The stock was up 0.7 percent at 1,036
pence by 0822 GMT.
Insurers' dividends have been under scrutiny since RSA and
Aviva's reduced payouts triggered concern that years of
ultra-low interest rates are taking their toll on the sector's
finances. However, most big European insurers have maintained or
increased their 2012 payouts.