Prudential
, Britain's biggest insurer, beat forecasts with a 24 percent increase in its 2010 profit, helped by continued strong growth in Asia, and hiked its dividend by a fifth.

Prudential made an operating profit of 1.94 billion pounds ($3.13 billion) last year, up from 1.564 billion pounds in 2009, it said on Wednesday.

Analysts had expected a profit of 1.73 billion pounds, according to a consensus forecast calculated by the company.

Prudential has sworn off big acquisitions and set itself ambitious cash generation and profit targets in an effort to mend relations with investors, severely dented last year by a failed $35.5 billion bid for rival AIA <1299.HK>.

The company was forced to pull the bid in June last year after shareholders baulked at the price, leaving it to shoulder 377 million pounds in costs, and prompting calls for chief executive Tidjane Thiam and chairman Harvey McGrath to quit.

Prudential shares were up 2.9 percent at 735.25 pence by 0825 GMT, when the FTSE 100 share index was 0.3 percent lower.

The stock fell steeply on news of the AIA deal in March last year, but had recovered to pre-AIA levels by September, and has since risen a further 18 percent, outperforming a 15 percent increase in the Stoxx 600 European insurance share index <.SXIP>.

(Reporting by Myles Neligan; editing by Paul Hoskins)