NETHERLANDS - Aegon's pensions sales in the UK dropped by 8% to £227m (€297m) during the fourth quarter, driven by lower sales of both group and individual pensions, the insurer said.

Income from pension contributions in the UK also declined, by 7% to £1.4bn, according to Aegon. However, it put the figures in perspective, by pointing at the exceptionally strong sales during the comparable quarter of 2006, following Pensions A-Day. 

Overall, the company's new life sales were down by 8% to €800m, also because of lower sales in Spain, the insurer reported. 

However, total pension sales in the Netherlands rose by 9% to €49m, "as a result of higher group sales in the institutional channel in particular". Pension premiums decreased by 15% because of lower single premiums. 

Strong pension sales in Hungary, as well as the inclusion of newly-acquired Polish pension fund management company PTE Aegon, were the main cause of a quarterly rise of pension and asset management deposits of 56% to €162m. 

Aegon's recent acquisition of Hungarian UNIQA Asset Management Company and Heller-Saldo 2000 Pension Fund Management Company will increase its pension assets under management in Hungary to €1.9bn, it said. 

"After completion, Aegon will rank second in the mandatory pension market and third in the voluntary sector in Hungary," it added. 

According to the insurer, its US' sub-prime mortgage-backed securities portfolio of €2.9bn - consisting of 70% AAA-rated and 29% AA-rated securities - is currently valued at €2.5bn. However, the company has decided to refrain from writing-off value, because of its strong financial position, its chairman Don Shepard argued. 

Aegon's overall net quarterly profits were down by 26% to €648m compared to the previous quarter, mainly because of the dropping value of the US$, it said. The annual profit is €2.5bn, a decrease of €600m.

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