L&G plans drive in America as it posts £1bn profit

Legal & General has positioned itself for an assault on the US market after posting record full-year results. The 177-year-old insurer said it hoped to increase its share of the $15trn (£10trn) of pension assets in America.

Legal & General's fund management arm already controls $33bn of US funds. Its chief executive, Nigel Wilson, said the group would also target bolt-on acquisitions in other parts of its business, including the UK.

His comments came as L&G reported a 9 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £1bn, helped by strong sales of its annuity and investment products. L&G also raised its final dividend by 20 per cent to 7.65p ahead of a possible cut today by larger rival Aviva, which is under growing pressure to rebase its dividend because analysts believe it is unsustainable.

Mr Wilson said: "The insurance industry has a poor track record of providing stable dividends. We cut ours back in 2009 but have since focused on improving our cash flow. In our case, I'm pleased to see that things are now travelling in the right direction, above market benchmarks."

Its shares rose 3.3p to 166p as analysts predicted that L&G would continue to increase market share. Panmure Gordon's Barrie Cornes said it should "capture growth from an ageing population, a reduction in state spending and retrenchment of the banks".