Prudential worldwide sales increase 13%

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The Independent Online

Ageing populations with greater disposal incomes were yesterday cited as the platform for sustained growth by Prudential, one of Britain's biggest life insurance groups.

Ageing populations with greater disposal incomes were yesterday cited as the platform for sustained growth by Prudential, one of Britain's biggest life insurance groups.

Jonathan Bloomer, the Pru's chief executive, said: "We are in all the right places - the UK, Asia and America - where the demographics are working in our favour and people have more income to save for their old age."

Mr Bloomer was unveiling the group's half-year results, in which a 13 per cent worldwide sales increase powered a 59 per cent boost to operating profits, which rose to £853m. The interim dividend is raised by 1.9 per cent to 5.4p a share.

Mr Bloomer said: "Our businesses across the group are firing on all cylinders and our markets in the UK, US and Asia present great opportunities for us. In the first half, we worked hard to build distribution and drive sales and profits. This led to pleasing performances from all our businesses. We enter the second half of 2004 with a strong mix of complementary businesses, which are well placed to meet the growing needs of our 16 million customers across the world, and in doing so, deliver improving returns to our shareholders."

The star performer was Jackson National Life in the US, where sales grew by 9 per cent and statutory operating profits by 50 per cent. Asia, which covers 23 businesses in 12 countries, produced an increase of 23 per cent in new business.

In the UK, sales rose 15 per cent, but a move from high-margin, with-profits products to lower-margin, unit-linked products hit margins and left profits only 2 per cent higher at £88m.

For the rest of the year, Mr Bloomer welcomed the removal of uncertainty over the Sandler price cap and the forthcoming depolarisation rules. The Pru is intending to launch a series of simplified products for sale through bank branches.

Mr Bloomer said: "Our businesses across the group are firing on all cylinders and our markets in the UK, US and Asia present great opportunities for us. In the UK, we stand to be a clear beneficiary as the market concentrates towards those financially strong companies with a broad product range and diversified distribution."

Prudential's shares were up 6p to 439p, although this is still nearly 100p below their 2004 high.

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