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UPDATE 2-UK's Prudential Q1 new business profit lifted by bulk annuity sales
May 8, 2014 / 9:41 AM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 2-UK's Prudential Q1 new business profit lifted by bulk annuity sales

* Prudential's new business profit nearly doubles in Britain

* CEO says company has strong pipeline of deals

* Shares up 0.7 pct at 1,387 pence at 1053 GMT (Adds CEO comment, share price)

By Chris Vellacott

LONDON, May 8 (Reuters) - UK life and pensions group Prudential plc reported a 29 percent increase in new business profit during the first quarter of the year, boosted by buoyant sales of bulk annuities in its home market.

In a trading statement on Thursday the group said new business profit nearly doubled in Britain which it attributed largely to strong sales of bulk annuity products to corporate pension schemes.

Sales of these products, which offer a guaranteed income to retirees and are increasingly popular with corporate pension schemes seeking to move their obligations to retiring scheme members off the company balance sheet, amounted to 73 million pounds ($123.85 million), up from nothing a year earlier.

Group Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam said the company had a "strong pipeline" of bulk annuity deals lined up but turned down transactions not deemed profitable enough.

"We have never used bulks to make our numbers because that's a sure way to destroy value," he said.

Total sales at the British arm were up 28 percent.

Shares of the company were up 0.7 percent at 1,387 pence per share at 1053 GMT, slightly outperforming a 0.5 percent gain in the FTSE 100 Index

Prudential said there could be significant disruption of annuity sales to individuals as a result of reforms to Britain's pensions system which mean retirees will no longer be forced to buy annuities with their savings.

Many large annuity providers have said they could benefit from the changes in the pension rules, pointing out that the government's budget was designed overall to offer incentives to savers, and more saving would boost the fund management and investment businesses run by the same companies.

Prudential's sales of individual annuities in Britain dropped 35 percent to 36 million pounds in the first quarter, the company said.

New business profit was up 67 percent in the United States and rose by a fifth in Asia on a constant exchange rate basis.

The company said it remained confident about its prospects for the rest of the year and played down the impact of "geopolitical uncertainties" on a global economic recovery.

The political crisis in Ukraine that has soured relations between the West and Russia and predictions of a slowdown in China have added to investor concerns about possible disruption to the growth trajectory of emerging markets.

Prudential has invested heavily in emerging markets and put Asia at the core of its strategy, in the hope a growing middle class will prove fertile ground for its savings and investment products.

The company's fund management arm M&G saw net inflows of new money of 1.4 billion pounds ($2.38 billion), helping lift total funds under management to 248 billion pounds. ($1 = 0.5894 British Pounds) (Editing by Jemima Kelly, Jon Boyle and Susan Thomas)

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