August 3, 2017 / 6:48 AM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 2-UK insurer Aviva's operating profit up 11 pct, shares rise

* Shares up 0.65 pct, one of top performers in FTSE 100

* Aviva may sell small Taiwan business

* Extension of general insurance distribution deal with HSBC (Adds Taiwan, detail on HSBC deal, share price)

By Carolyn Cohn

LONDON, Aug 3 (Reuters) - British insurer Aviva reported an 11 percent rise in first-half operating profits to 1.47 billion pounds ($1.94 billion) on Thursday, boosted by its general insurance and fund management units and sending its share price higher.

Analysts in a company-supplied poll had forecast an operating profit of 1.45 billion pounds.

The company has been selling businesses it considers underperforming, including most recently Asia and Middle East-focused Friends Provident International and three Spanish joint ventures.

“Aviva is getting leaner and stronger and we are confident in our ability to sustain growth in the coming years,” Chief Executive Mark Wilson said.

The company said it would pay an interim dividend of 8.4 pence per share, up 13 percent and ahead of analysts’ forecasts of 8.28 pence.

Aviva’s shares were up 0.65 percent at 542 pence at 0842 GMT, one of the top performers in the FTSE 100 index.

“Aviva is transforming its ‘no growth’ businesses to ‘organic growth’ businesses,” said analysts at JP Morgan, reiterating their overweight rating on the stock.

Wilson told reporters on a news conference call the insurer was “actively looking” at the sale of its Taiwan business, though he added the business was small and no financial advisers had been hired yet.

“We have been selling off our lower quality businesses, I‘m feeling much happier with what we have left,” he said.

Aviva has already said it is considering the future of its businesses in Spain, Italy and India.

On Thursday the company also announced a 10-year extension of its UK general insurance distribution agreement with HSBC .

Aviva won the extension in a competitive bidding process and the deal for home and travel insurance represents “hundreds of millions of pounds” in premiums, Wilson said, declining to give more detail on its size.

Fund management arm Aviva Investors, previously considered a laggard among Aviva’s businesses, posted a 45 percent rise in operating profit to 71 million pounds.

The firm’s general insurance business saw a 25 percent rise in operating profit to 417 million. Aviva’s life business’ operating profit rose 8 percent to 1.3 billion pounds.

Combined operating ratio for the firm’s general insurance business strengthened to 94.5 percent from 95.7 percent, where a level below 100 percent indicates an underwriting profit. ($1 = 0.7560 pounds) (Reporting by Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Rachel Armstrong, Greg Mahlich)

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