Booming Asian markets help Pru's interim profits surge 39%

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Booming business in Asia and a solid performance in the UK drove Prudential's profit up ahead of expectations in the first half of the year.

The life insurer's operating profit for the first six months of the year rose 39 per cent to £1.33bn, beating analysts' consensus forecast of £1.16bn.

Mark Tucker, the company's chief executive, said Prudential was getting on with business amid speculation about takeovers. "There is a lot of noise, some of it justified and some of it not. Our job is to focus on delivering value for shareholders," Mr Tucker said. "What we are seeing is continued investment in growth turning into cash and profit generation."

Prudential fended off an approach from its larger rival Aviva last year. The life insurance sector is consolidating, with closed-fund administrator Resolution agreeing a merger with life insurer Friends Provident in July and Resolution's rival Pearl weighing a competing bid for Friends Provident.

Mr Tucker said he would consider acquisitions but that these would be "bolt-on" deals in Asia or the US, such as buying books of business in the highly fragmented American market, where Prudential's Jackson Life business can run them more efficiently.

Prudential started life as a UK life insurer but it now makes most of its profit in Asia, where emerging middle classes are buying more financial products. New business in Asia rose 48 per cent to £619m. Mr Tucker picked out Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore and India as the company's biggest growth.

The UK business increased retail sales by 10 per cent and Prudential announced a deal with Barclays to provide annuity products to Barclays' retail customers.

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