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UPDATE 2-Prudential's new-business profit surges on Asia growth

* New-business profit jumps 17 pct to 2.47 bln stg

* Asia new-business profit jumps 15 pct to 1.61 bln stg

* Sees opportunities in Asia, US, UK and Europe

* Seven Asian countries clock double-digit growth

* Prudential share performance vs peers: http://bit.ly/2zJnEdz (Adds Asia business details, background)

Nov 16 (Reuters) - Prudential Plc's new-business profit for the first nine months of the year rose 17 percent, with a major chunk of it coming from Asia, and the British life insurer also saw growth opportunities in the United States, and the UK and Europe.

New-business profit for the group was 2.47 billion pounds ($3.25 billion), driven by higher sales and favourable economics, Prudential said on Thursday ahead of an investor day. It was in line with forecasts by analysts at KBW.

In Asia, Prudential's focus region in recent years, new-business profit rose 15 percent to 1.61 billion pounds in the period, driven in part by higher sales volumes and a boost from higher interest rates. Performance update http://www.prudential.co.uk/news/news-releases/2017/16-11-2017

"In Asia, we are meeting the health, protection and savings needs of a rapidly growing middle class," Chief Executive Mike Wells said.

Prudential said seven countries including China, Hong Kong and Singapore clocked double-digit growth.

Positive markets helped Eastspring, its Asian asset management business, deliver year-to-date external net inflows of 2.8 billion pounds.

In the UK, new business profit rose 31 percent to 234 million pounds in its recently merged insurance and fund-management unit.

M&G Prudential delivered external asset management net inflows of 9.9 billion pounds in the first nine months, with total assets under management rising to 336.5 billion pounds.

In the United States, where Prudential operates through its unit Jackson, new-business profit rose 28 percent on an actual exchange rate basis to 619 million pounds, driven by higher interest rates.

Prudential sees opportunities from retirement needs of the baby boomers in the United States and the life assurance and savings markets in the UK and Europe, CEO Wells said.

Gross annual premium equivalent (APE) sales, which include regular premium sales plus one-tenth of single premium insurance sales, rose to 5.17 billion pounds, from 4.47 billion pounds a year earlier.

ASIA PUSH

APE sales in Asia rose 14 percent to 2.79 billion pounds in the nine months, helped by higher contributions from agency and bancassurance channels, and a 16 percent jump in health and protection sales.

Prudential has kicked off the sale of its Vietnam consumer finance unit, which could fetch up to $150 million, as it continues to sharpen focus on its core insurance business in the Southeast Asian nation.

The move comes as some global insurers, including AXA , are similarly looking to sell smaller and non-core units in Asia to better focus on their main insurance businesses in a region that is attractive due to low insurance penetration, but is also hyper competitive.

($1 = 0.7593 pounds)

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru and Carolyn Cohn in London; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri and Gopakumar Warrier)