Insurer Prudential topped forecasts on Tuesday with a 10 percent rise in nine-month sales, as growth in Asia, driven by India and Taiwan, offset the impact of a weak dollar and a shrinking business at home.
The country's second-largest life insurer, the first in the sector to report nine-month numbers, said sales at its UK, Asian and U.S. operations rose to 1.98 billion pounds, beating an average expectation of 1.95 billion pounds.
At constant exchange rates, insurance sales rose 15 percent.
In the third quarter, insurance sales rose 18 percent to 645 million pounds, beating analyst forecasts and boosted by Asia, though the UK again lagged with an 8 percent drop.
Pru shares climbed in early trade along with the financial sector, rising 1.9 percent by 9:14 a.m. to trade at 743.5p, but analysts said concerns remained over ongoing weakness.
The sum remains the same -- good numbers from Asia and the United States, but the UK business failed to meet consensus and is just disappointing. They have a problem with that business and it looks like they are nowhere near solving it, analyst Kevin Ryan at ING said.
It's like a three-legged stool with two good legs and one withered one, which makes sitting on it very uncomfortable.
In the UK, where Prudential earlier this year announced plans to restructure and pull out of lower margin businesses, total sales fell 20 percent in the first nine months, though retail sales climbed 8 percent, lifted by individual annuities and corporate pensions.
The insurer gave no further details on the overhaul but said it was on track to lay out the remainder of the plan this year.
Pru said it was in talks with the government over planned capital gains tax changes which could hit some bond sales.
Asia, which typically makes up roughly half the group's sales, remained the growth engine for Prudential in 2007 and accounted for much of the outperformance, with sales up 40 percent at 939 million pounds -- already above 2006's total.
Stripping out currency fluctuations, sales rose 48 percent.
India, where Prudential has almost doubled its number of agents to 256,000, saw nine-month sales up more than 60 percent at 126 million pounds. Taiwan, helped by a jump in agent numbers and a new variable annuity product, saw sales up 71 percent.
Pru said Malaysia was currently the most challenging market, up 6 percent -- though still above the market's overall growth.
At Prudential's key U.S. unit, Jackson National Life, new business rose to 511 million pounds -- 9 percent at actual exchange rates or 20 percent excluding the impact of the weak dollar -- helped by record variable annuity sales.
Prudential said it had not yet seen the impact of turmoil on the U.S. subprime mortgage market filter through to savers' behaviour, with the lag normally about three to six months.
Back in 2003, last time there was a prolonged market downturn, what we saw consumers do was change the fund into which they put their money, within the variable annuity, Pru's outgoing finance director Philip Broadley said.
They still bought it, but if they were concerned about market levels they can put their money into cash.
Pru confirmed it also remains interested in bolt-on U.S. deals up to around $1 billion (490 million pounds) without leverage and will also consider securitisation deals to hit targeted rates of return.
In fund management, Prudential said its Asian business saw net fund inflows up 59 percent at 2.4 billion pounds, while M&G saw a 30 percent drop on last year, though the net fund inflows of 3.6 billion remained the second-highest on record.