* Group operating profit above forecast at $5.5 bln
* Asia profit up 13% and U.S. business down 9%
* Equity raise could include Hong Kong public share sale
* Sees potential for rapid growth in Myanmar
LONDON, March 3 (Reuters) - 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 Prus 172-year history," Chief Executive Mike Wells, a
former boss of the insurer's U.S. business, said on a media
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
(Additional reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru
Editing by Jane Merriman and David Goodman)