Aviva has 11pc fall in life sales in 2009

Sam WilliamsAviva remains poised to benefit from the recovery of world markets despite an 11pc fall in life sales last year, according to the chief executive Andrew Moss.Sam Williams

Aviva remains poised to benefit from the recovery of world markets despite an 11pc fall in life sales last year, according to the chief executive Andrew Moss.

Norwich's biggest employer today reported sales of �35.9bn in its life, pensions and long-term savings products in 2009, down from �40.2bn the previous year.

But despite the fall Mr Moss remained upbeat about the company's prospects after a strong overall performance in the last three months of 2009, with overall sales up 14pc over the previous quarter at �8.7bn, and it is not yet clear what impact the assessment will have on Aviva's share price.

In the UK the company said 'exceptional economic conditions' had 'impacted consumer confidence and reduced activity', with sales of �1bn in 2009, down from about �1.5bn the previous year.

However, Aviva reported marginal growth in its share of the UK market, up 0.1pc at 10.6pc, and an 'encouraging performance' in the final quarter with life and pension sales up 17pc and overall investment sales up 96pc over the previous quarter.

In Europe, Aviva's bancassurance franchise, the main part of the company's businesses in Italy and Spain, and a strong component in France and Ireland, saw a 5pc increase in sales, taking into account currency fluctuations.

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And despite the overall drop in sales the company remained upbeat about improving conditions in 2010.

Andrew Moss, Aviva's group chief executive, said: 'In the fourth quarter we increased sales across all our regions and saw the first signs of an improved appetite to save among our customers. European bancassurance was particularly strong.

'In 2009 as a whole we have successfully managed new business to ensure the right balance between volume, capital efficiency and profitability. This means we have deliberately foregone sales in some areas.'

He said the company had also achieved an 'important milestone' at the end of the year with the flotation of its Dutch subsidiary Delta Lloyd.

He added: 'We start 2010 in a strong position. Our focus remains on growing our business profitably and improving our operational efficiency so that we can fully benefit as our major markets return to economic growth.'

Aviva employs more than 6,000 people in Norwich, where the company's insurance business is based.

While the report did not include sales figures in the insurance division it said trade in the division had been hit by �100m weather-related insurance claims, most related to storms in Ireland.

Do you have a business story for the Evening News? Contact reporter Sam Williams on 01603 772447 or email sam.williams@archant.co.uk.

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