Aviva to buy back £1bn worth of shares

·Business reporter
·2-min read
An Aviva logo sits on the window of the company head office in the city of London, Britain March 7, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
"We are increasing our share buyback as part of our commitment to return at least £4bn to ordinary shareholders," Amanda Blanc, group chief executive, said in a statement. Photo: REUTERS/Simon Dawson

Aviva (AV.L) announced on Thursday that it will increase and extend its share buyback programme from £750m ($997m) to a maximum of £1bn.

The British insurance provider said the total maximum number of shares to be acquired under the programme has been upped to 392 million, and expects this to be complete by the end of March next year.

It comes amid pressure from Cevian – one of Europe’s largest activist investors – took a 5% stake in Aviva and announced plans to shake up the company.

It believes that Aviva is undervalued and is looking for a £5bn return to investors by the end of 2022.

In August Aviva said it would return £4bn to shareholders, but Cevian said this was insufficient. It believes there to be scope for further cost-cutting by the insurer, totalling at least £500m by 2023.

Aviva shares were higher on the back of the news. Chart: Yahoo Finance
Aviva shares were higher on the back of the news. Chart: Yahoo Finance

"We are increasing our share buyback as part of our commitment to return at least £4bn to ordinary shareholders," Amanda Blanc, group chief executive, said in a statement.

“We will update further on our capital return and dividend plans at our full year results in March 2022."

Blanc has been at the helm of the firm for just over a year, and during her tenure the insurer has sold eight businesses for £7.5bn.

Earlier this year it sold its Polish arm to rival Allianz, Europe’s largest insurer, for €2.5bn (£2.1bn, $2.95bn).

Aviva is now turning its focus on its strongest businesses in the UK, Ireland and Canada, where it has “leading market positions and strong growth potential”.

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In an update last month it revealed that third quarter sales for life insurance in the UK and Ireland rose 9% to £25.3bn during the period.

Net flows into Aviva's savings and retirement business climbed 21%, to record levels in the first nine months, while general insurance premiums were up 5%.

Shares were 1.3% higher on the day in London.

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