Aviva Says Worldwide Sales Rose 22%

Aviva, the world's fifth-largest insurance group based on gross premiums, said Tuesday worldwide sales rose 22% in 2006, boosted by the acquisition of AmerUS in the United States.

Total new business for the year increased to 31.1 billion pounds (47.2 billion euros; $61 billion), from 25.6 billion pounds in 2005, the company said in a statement.

Life and pension sales gained 18% to 26.2 billion pounds (39.7 billion euros; $51.4 billion) while investment sales climbed 48% to 4.9 billion pounds (7.4 billion euros; $9.6 billion).

AmerUS, which became part of Aviva on Nov. 15, contributed 324 million pounds (491 million euros; $636 million) in new business in the last six weeks of the year.

Aviva shares advanced 0.7% to 838 pence (12.71 euros; 16.84 euros) on the London Stock Exchange.

"Non-European international business is proceeding quickly from a reasonable base, aided by the AmerUS acquisition, which we fully supported," said Tim Young, insurance analyst at Collins Stewart. He rated the Aviva shares as a "buy."

Analysts at Bear Stearns International took a more downbeat view.

"We continue to prefer Legal & General and Friends Provident since we see a benefit from reserving changes due to higher proportion of protection business and lower exposure to increasing lapse rates on pensions business," Bear Stearns said in a research note.

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