“Overall retail sales volumes were 11% down at £4,386 million (2008: £4,907 million) and 17% down on a local currency basis. In 2008, we benefited from 506 million of one-off initial contributions from the launch of compulsory pensions in Romania. Excluding these, retail sales were broadly in line with the prior year”, the company said in its report.

Life and pension sales stood 11% below year-ago level, at £24.1 billion (€26.8 billion).

The group said it would remain focused on improving the profitability of new business while maintaining rigorous capital discipline. The group margin was in line with full year 2008 at 2.1%.

Market conditions remained challenging and consequently life and pensions sales were 25% lower in the period under review.

“The outlook for the group’s total profitability in 2009 is good despite a reduction in sales driven by continuing customer caution and active management of sales volumes to optimize profitability”, the insurer said.

Aviva sold earlier this week its division from the Netherlands, Delta Lloyd, in the largest initial public offering carried this year in western Europe, which fetched €995 million.

The insurer said recently that it would rebrand its subsidiaries in European countries where it runs operations, including in Romania. Aviva’s operations in these countries will be managed by a sole company based in Ireland.