LONDON - British insurer Prudential expects to split off its U.S. business in the second quarter, it said on Wednesday as it posted a 4% rise in full-year operating profit on the back of strength in Asia. Prudential, which has been pressed by activist investor Third Point to split the business in two, said in January that it would separate U.S. unit Jackson through a demerger and could raise up to $3 billion in new equity. The life insurer on Wednesday said that it is making "good progress" with the plans, adding that its preferred option for the capital increase is a global offering to institutional investors and a public share sale to Hong Kong retail investors. Prudential hived off its UK insurer and asset manager M&G in 2019, following in the footsteps of rivals such as Standard Life Aberdeen and Old Mutual, which have also restructured complex businesses. "These two transactions constitute the largest structural change in Pru’s 172-year history," Chief Executive Mike Wells, a former boss of the insurer's U.S. business, said on a media call. JPMorgan Cazenove said Prudential's exit from the United States was "a positive" because it would reduce risk from U.S. macroeconomic factors while focusing purely on Asia, where it has performed strongly Prudential shares were up 1% at 14.99 pounds by 1013 GMT. Wells also said the company was talking to its staff in Myanmar daily since the military coup on Feb. ended the country's tentative steps towards democratic rule and triggered domestic protests and international dismay. There have been no incidents affecting Prudential's Myanmar staff so far, Wells said. The company's earnings statement said that Prudential sees Myanmar as an "opportunity for rapid growth" alongside Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia and Laos. After deducting restructuring costs and other one-offs, Britain's largest insurer reported 2020 adjusted operating profit from continuing operations up 4% at $5.5 billion, beating a company-supplied consensus forecast of $5.26 billion. Profit in Asia was up 13% at $3.7 billion while Jackson registered a 9% decline to $2.8 billion. Prudential said it would pay a second interim dividend of 10.73 cents per share and a total dividend of 16.10 cents per share. REUTERS
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