Insurer Aviva has reported a promising increase in annual profits, bolstering internal confidence that the group will see continued growth into 2006.

Surpassing market forecasts, the Norwich Union owner reported a 29% increase in operating profit up to GBP2,904 million while fund management profit more than doubled to GBP92 million. The firm also increased its final dividend by 9%.

In a statement the group’s chief executive, Richard Harvey, confirmed plans to pay GBP700 million into the group’s UK pension schemes over the next two years.

Commenting on the group’s results, Mr Harvey said: This is another great set of results from Aviva, delivered by managing our business for value. Our composite business model combines strength and flexibility in both long-term savings and general insurance to produce sustainable returns.

We are confident of delivering further growth from our businesses in 2006. We will continue to evaluate new distribution and acquisition opportunities to provide additional momentum where we can create shareholder value.