Tidjane Thiam
Tidjane Thiam, Prudential chief executive, praised the company\'s \"strong start\" to 2012 as the insurer\'s profits in Asia boomed (Reuters)

Prudential, Britain's biggest insurer, reported strong sales growth of 9 percent for the first quarter of the year, as profits from its Asian business soared.

Declining sales and profit growth in the UK and US was more than offset by robust growth in Asia, where Prudential has focused on south east Asian economies, as it holds its full year outlook.

"We have made a strong start to 2012. Using our primary measure of growth, new business profit, the first quarter of 2012 is our eleventh consecutive quarter of year-on-year growth," Tidjane Thiam, Prudential's chief executive, said in a statement.

Total sales hit £964m in the first three months of the year, up 9 percent on the first quarter of 2011.

New business profit hit £536m, up 8 percent on the previous year.

This was mostly driven by 22 percent profit growth in Asian new business for Prudential, which hit £260m.

Sales in this region grew by 21 percent, to £443m.

New business profits in the UK and US declined, by 5 percent to £62m and 3 percent to £214m respectively.

Sales in the UK also dropped by 5 percent in the first quarter, to £189m.

Limited exposure to the risks of crisis-mired eurozone, which has seen its member economies plunging into recession, has left Prudential in a favourable position for the future.

"There remain significant uncertainties in the global economy and the effects of the 2008-2009 crisis are still present in different forms whether public deficits or continued deleveraging in the financial sector," Thiam said.

"However, the economy in the US has shown signs of improvement and Asia has been more resilient than expected.

"With our limited exposure to the countries of the eurozone, our leading presence in Asia and our strong businesses in the US and in the UK we are well positioned and this is demonstrated clearly by these first quarter new business results."

Prudential shares were up a touch to £714.90 at 10:34am BST on the London Stock Exchange.