Britain's biggest insurer, Prudential, has transferred £36bn in customer assets to its new Luxembourg subsidiary ahead of Brexit as the company reported a 6% in operating profit boosted by growth in Asia.
The life insurer, which has large operations in Asia and the United States as well as Britain, reported an above-forecast 6% rise in 2018 operating profit to £4.8bn.
The firm's Asian business saw a 14% rise in operating profit while M&G Prudential's profit rose 19%, with its British pensions business helped by a slowdown in life improvement expectations.
In 2018, our financial performance, again led by our Asia operations, is testament to the scale of our opportunity set, the depth of our capabilities, and our unrelenting focus on executing our strategy at pace"
"In 2018, our financial performance, again led by our Asia operations, is testament to the scale of our opportunity set, the depth of our capabilities, and our unrelenting focus on executing our strategy at pace," Prudential Chief Executive Mike Wells said.
The Chinese government has relaxed its rules on ownership, allowing foreign insurers to buy up to 51% of their joint ventures in the country. Prudential operates via a 50/50 joint venture with Citic, a financial services group. "If they were willing to sell, we'd be a willing buyer," Wells added.
Prudential has £36bn shifted worth of assets into Luxembourg ahead of Brexit, joining the long list of banks, asset managers and insurers that have moved nearly £1trn out of the UK.
John Foley, head of Prudential's UK business M&G Prudential, said the insurer had spent £27m on setting up the new Luxembourg operation, which currently has 35 staff.
Prudential said it was making "continued progress" in the demerger of M&G through a stock market listing, having reorganised its UK and Hong Kong businesses, sold a £12bn chunk of its annuity book to Rothesay and started the process of splitting the group's debt.
"The intended demerger of M&G Prudential from Prudential plc will further enhance the strategic focus of both businesses," said chief executive Mike Wells.
"I am confident that, given the extent of our opportunities and our proven ability to execute and innovate, we are well positioned to continue to grow profitably."
The company ended the year with a Solvency II capital surplus of £17.2bn, equivalent to a ratio cover of 232%.
Prudential raised its full-year ordinary dividend by 5% to 49.35p per share.