UPDATE 1-AIA Group posts 18 percent rise in first-quarter value of new business, boosted by China

(Adds details, CEO comment)

May 10 (Reuters) - AIA Group Ltd, the world’s second-largest life insurer by market value, posted an 18 percent increase in new business value in the first quarter on Friday, supported by growth in China.

AIA’s value of new business, which measures expected profits from new premiums and is a key gauge for future growth, rose to $1.17 billion for the three months ended March 31, up from $1.02 billion a year earlier.

Ng Keng Hooi, AIA’s chief executive, said it was the company’s “highest ever quarterly VONB result.”

The insurer, originally founded in Shanghai nearly 100 years ago and the first foreign insurer to be granted a licence in China, has been expanding its presence in China amid Beijing’s broader agenda to open up its financial sector to greater foreign participation.

The company said in a statement to the stock exchange that the value of new business in Hong Kong, its key market, generated “double-digit” growth, but did not give a number.

China and Hong Kong together account for about half of new business growth globally at AIA. (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)