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Aviva sends reassuring message amid panic over stop on fund redemptions

Aviva tells investors to stop worrying

British insurer Aviva aims to increase its dividend pay-out ratio next year and said on Wednesday it was confident of future growth despite Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

U.K. insurers' shares have been buffeted since the Brexit vote, as investors worry that the weakening value of insurers' investments will hit their capital positions under new European solvency rules.

Ahead of a capital markets day, Aviva said in a statement it planned to increase its dividend pay-out ratio - the proportion of earnings per share paid out in dividends - to 50 percent in 2017. The pay-out ratio was 42 percent in 2015.

Aviva's fund arm was one of three to suspend its U.K. commercial property fund this week, in the first sign of markets seizing up since Britain's vote to exit the European Union sent asset prices into a tailspin.

"Although it is too early to quantify the precise impact of Brexit, we are confident we can continue to grow," chief executive Mark Wilson said in the statement.

The 1.8 billion pound ($2.33 billion) property fund represented only a small part of the firm's assets under management, an Aviva spokesman said.

Gary Yeowell | The Image Bank | Getty Images

Wilson said earlier this year the firm could give cash back to shareholders, after it beat forecasts with a 20 percent rise in 2015 operating profit.

Aviva said on Wednesday it was targeting mid to single digit operating profit growth in the medium term, and the spokesman said handing cash back was a medium-term objective.

Aviva also said in the statement it was looking to generate 7 billion pounds in cash over the period 2016-18.

Aviva's shares, which have fallen 16 percent from pre-vote levels, dipped 0.16 percent at the open, slightly outperforming the FTSE 100 index.

Analysts at JPMorgan Cazenove said Aviva's statement on Wednesday sent a "reassuring message".

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