French insurance provider AXA has been celebrating a successful 2006 after posting an 18% increase in its profitability for the year, driven primarily by improving revenues in its life insurance and asset management businesses.

<p>Net income rose to E5.09 billion compared to E4.32 billion the previous year. Underlying earnings and adjusted earnings were both up 20% to E4 billion and E5.1 billion respectively. Furthermore, life and savings new business value rose 34% to E1.5 billion. <br /><br />The UK saw the strongest sales in the life and savings division, alongside France, while the US saw a strong sales growth in its variable annuities and life insurance contracts, reported MarketWatch. However, life and savings sales have improved for all insurance companies operating in France following the taxation changes on home purchase savings plans, MarketWatch added. <br /><br />AXA also attributed the strong performance to the acquisition of Winterthur, which bolstered the group&#0039;s activities in four eastern European markets that the company is seeking to further expand into.<br /><br />Through organic growth and acquisitions, the group begins 2007 30% larger than a year ago, with increased diversification and stronger local franchises in a number of our key markets, commented Henri de Castries, chairman of AXA&#0039;s management board. In addition, we expect that our shareholders will also benefit from our continuing efforts to optimize the group&#0039;s capital management and to develop a state-of-the-art risk management culture, which should further reduce the volatility of future earnings.</p>