Insurers Aviva and Friends Life Group (FLG) each jumped over 7% on Thursday as investors celebrated the companies' 2014 results ahead of the proposed merger, giving the life insurance sector a big boost in London.
The impressive figures also helped to allay fears across the wider sector, showing that companies have been able to withstand sharp falls in annuity sales following the reforms announced at the time of the Autumn Budget.
Insurance peers including Standard Life, Legal & General, Partnership Assurance Group, Prudential, Old Mutual and Phoenix were all putting in decent gains in afternoon trade.
In spite of negative currency headwinds, changes to regulation and lower interest rates, Aviva managed to deliver a 6% rise in operating profits last year to £2.17bn, ahead of the consensus forecast of £2.15bn.
"These results show tangible progress, with all key metrics moving in the right direction," said chief executive Mark Wilson.
Aviva's stock was up 7.2% at 570.5p, helping shares
in smaller peer FLG up 7.1% to 435p, given that the latter is intrinsically linked to the former as part of their proposed share-exchange deal - Aviva has offered 0.74 new Aviva shares for each FLG share.
At the same time, FLG itself impressed analysts with a stronger cash position, higher value of new business and a 38% surge in annual operating profits to £556m, well ahead of the City's £352m estimate due to a number of one-off items.
Chief executive Andy Briggs said: "I have the utmost confidence in our standalone position, but I'm excited by the opportunity the Aviva deal offers to accelerate our proven, successful strategy."
The combination of the two outfits, expected to create the largest life and pensions group in the UK, is predicted to complete some time in the second quarter.
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