Aviva to hand back another £3.75bn to shareholders despite a drop in earnings

Insurance giant Aviva has announced plans to hand back another £3.75bn to shareholders, despite posting a drop in annual earnings.

The group saw underlying operating profits fall 28 per cent to £2.3bn as it sold off a raft of businesses.

It said with these stripped out, earnings from continuing operations were 10 per cent lower at £1.6bn, as a strong performance in its general insurance arm was offset by lower operating profit in the UK and Ireland life business.

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Aviva announced the new tranche of share buybacks on top of a £1bn existing programme, meaning it will return £4.75bn to investors.

Amanda Blanc, group chief executive of Aviva, said the firm was "delivering on our promise to shareholders" by returning more than £4bn.

In further cheer for shareholders, it also said it would pay out a 14.7p a share final dividend for 2021 and disclosed aims to pay dividends of about £870m in 2022 and £915m in 2023.

It has come under pressure from activist investor Cevian, which has been pushing for £5bn in cash returns by the end of 2022.

Aviva also announced a deal on Wednesday to buy Succession Wealth for £385m to boost its presence in the fast-growing UK wealth market and expand its ability to offer financial advice to its six million pensions and savings customers.

Amanda Blanc, group chief executive of Aviva, said: "2021 was a year of significant strategic progress, right across Aviva.

"We successfully completed the sale of eight non-core businesses, generating excellent value for our shareholders."

She said the firm was "delivering on our promise to shareholders" by returning more than £4bn.

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