Aviva's backing Britain as it leaps to £2.5bn

Aviva yesterday declared that the UK is a great place to do business, a stance that might be seen as a dig at arch-rival Prudential.

The Pru has been signalling that it could move its headquarters to Hong Kong, as its biggest and most rapidly expanding businesses are in Asia. Aviva, which is growing in the UK and Europe, would probably be happy to see its most closely watched competition decamp.

Chief executive Andrew Moss said: "We think the UK is a great place to do business. We are here very much for the duration."

Around 40 per cent of Aviva's profits come from the UK. "People think of us a European play, but the UK is a terrific market for us. We have 14 million customers and we want to concentrate on serving them," Moss said.

The insurer has gained 400,000 new motor insurance customers lately. year-end operating profits are up 6 per cent to £2.5bn, though Andy Hughes at ExaneBNP Paribas said the figures "would have been worse had they not changed the accounting basis for Italy". The dividend is raised 0.5p to 26p.

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