Prudential's Sales Rise 16%, Beat Forecasts

British life insurer Prudential reported a 16 percent rise in 2007 sales on Tuesday, just above analysts' forecasts, helped by a deal with Equitable Life in the fourth quarter and continuing strength in Asia.

Britain's second-largest insurer said it expected growth in Asia to slow in 2008 after a bumper year, but said the outlook remained positive for the group, with its U.S. unit expected to outperform the sector in the long term.

One of the first of its peers to publish sales figures including the turbulent last quarter of 2007, Prudential said new business sales for the full year totalled 2.87 billion pounds ($5.69 billion) against 2.47 billion a year ago.

Excluding the impact of the weak dollar and other currency fluctuations, sales would have climbed 21 percent year-on-year.

Twenty-one analysts polled by the company had on average forecast full-year group sales of 2.84 billion pounds.

In the fourth quarter alone, group sales rose to 895 million pounds, up 34 percent on constant exchange rates.

In the UK, where Prudential last year announced plans to restructure and pull out of lower margin businesses, total sales were flat at 897 million pounds for the full year, but rose 55 percent in the fourth quarter, helped in the last three months of the year by a bulk purchase deal with Equitable Life.

Asia, which typically makes up roughly half the group's sales, remained the growth engine for Prudential in 2007, with sales up 37 percent at actual exchange rates, helped by growth in India, where it has boosted agent numbers.

At Prudential's key U.S. unit, Jackson National Life, new business rose to 671 million pounds -- 9 percent at actual exchange rates or 19 percent excluding the impact of the weak dollar.

In fund management, Pru said its Asian business saw net inflows up 23 percent, while M&G saw net inflows 19 percent lower than 2006, but said 2007 was still its second-highest year on record.