Insurance giant Prudential posted a sharp rise in profits today as it shrugged off changes to the UK pension market and boosted sales in the US and Asia.

The group beat forecasts to deliver an operating profit up 17% to £1.5 billion on the back of demand from baby boomers in the US and growing middle class savers across Asia.

Budget changes to the UK pensions market, which mean that individuals will no longer have to buy annuities, saw the Pru's business in this area slump 43% to £63 million.

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But this gap was more than filled by company bulk annuity schemes that lifted the sale of annual premiums in this sector by 22% to £433 million.

The group was impacted by a strong pound, which meant its operating profit rose by a more modest 7% when currency translations are taken into account.

The group said it won four bulk annuity deals during the period, which generated £104 million of sales and £69 million of new business profit.

The Pru, which has 23 million customers worldwide, said it had a range of products and experience to appeal to UK pensioners who decide not to buy an annuity when the changes take effect in April.

Overall in the UK, the firm said operating profits lifted 10% to £374 million due to bulk annuities and increased investment bond sales.

In Asia, the group saw operating profits rise 19% to £525 million, despite political uncertainties brought by legal challenges in presidential elections in Indonesia and a military coup in Thailand.

The Pru said it continued to meet the need for savings among "Asia's rapidly growing middle classes."

In the US, the company saw operating profits jump 28% to £686 million as its economy grew and housing market strengthened.

Chief executive Tidjane Thiam said as a result of the group's geographical spread he was confident it would "produce profitable growth over the long-term."

Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers head of equities Richard Hunter said: "Prudential has shown again that it is a company which is firing on all cylinders."