Volatile insurance market dents Aviva

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Insurer Aviva reported mixed performances from its businesses in the first quarter of the year, with strong recoveries in Europe partly offset by a volatile life market in the UK.

The company’s key measure of growth in life insurance - value of new business - showed a 22 per cent decline in Britain, driven by falling annuity sales, according to a trading statement on Thursday.

Aviva’s life division is based in York where it has 2,000 staff. It employs an additional 1,500 people in Sheffield.

New business in France was up more than a third while its “turnaround businesses” in Italy, Spain and Ireland collectively doubled, Aviva said.

Chief Executive Mark Wilson called first quarter performance “reassuringly calm and stable”, in light of high weather-related insurance claims at the start of the year and a radical shakeup of Britain’s pensions system that has hit annuity sales.

Analyst Barrie Cornes at Panmure Gordon said: “Aviva has reported a solid first quarter IMS showing the benefit of a diversified portfolio in the face of weather losses and regulatory change.

“There remains much to do but Aviva is in a strong position and getting better.”