LONDON -- The shares of Legal & General (LSE: LGEN ) climbed 1 pence to 163 pence during early trade this morning after the general insurer lifted its full-year dividend by 20%.
A 7.65 pence per share payout was declared for 2012, up from 6.4 pence per share for 2011.
The dividend news accompanied 12-month results that showed annual premiums up 15% to 2.1 billion pounds and pre-tax profits up 9% to 1 billion pounds. The company said sales of individual annuities jumped 26% while investment assets under management advanced 9% to 406 billion pounds.
Nigel Wilson, Legal & General's chief executive, said:
Legal & General's double-digit sales growth in 2012 broke records, again demonstrating that customers value our insurance, savings and investment propositions. An uncertain, sluggish economy has had minimal impact. The more important growth drivers for us are ageing populations, falling state spending on welfare and new long-term investment opportunities as banks retrench.
Looking ahead, Mr Wilson claimed Legal & General had the capability and "focused ambition" to grow earnings further during 2013 and beyond.
He also said the insurer would, following the introduction of new pension rules, "auto-enroll" more than 150,000 employees from Alliance Boots, Asda, Co-operative Group, and Marks & Spencer into a new workplace savings scheme.
Based on today's figures, Legal & General is valued at 12 times earnings and offers a 4.7% income.
Of course, whether this morning's results, the share-price valuation and the wider prospects for the insurance sector all combine to make Legal & General a buy remains your decision.
However, if you already own Legal & General shares and are looking for an alternative dividend opportunity, this exclusive in-depth report reviews an attractive alternative.
In fact, the blue chip in question offers a 5.7% income and has just been declared the "Motley Fool's Top Income Stock For 2013"!
Just click here to download the report -- it's free.