Aviva mulls sales to maintain focus

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The Independent Online

Aviva is considering asset sales this year to home in on its most important markets after life insurance sales boosted a strong rise in annual profits.

Andrew Moss, Aviva's chief executive, said: "We are going to focus on and invest in 12 key markets. On the positive side you will see investment in those markets." On the other hand other markets will be scaled back over the next year, he said.

Aviva beat analysts' forecasts for 2010, unveiling operating profits up 26 per cent to £2.55bn. Growth was driven by Aviva's life insurance business, where operating profits rose 23 per cent to £2.32bn.

Mr Moss came under pressure last year after he rebuffed an approach from RSA for most of Aviva's non-life business. Shareholders asked whether he was right to keep general and life insurance under one roof and questioned the growth potential of its major markets in Britain and Europe.

But Aviva said yesterday those markets make up "the largest savings market in the world with the greatest absolute growth in the next five years".

Mr Moss spent last year cutting costs, boosting cash generation and eliminating Aviva's £1.7bn pension deficit and the shares have outpaced the wider insurance sector this year.

He said yesterday he would stay focused on streamlining Aviva's business and was not looking at acquisitions. Aviva announced a 6 per cent rise in the total dividend to 25.5p a share.