Legal & General, target of a failed takeover bid by NatWest last year, has reported pre-tax operating profits up 12% from £368 million to £413m.

The group's worldwide premium income grew by 27% to £628m in 1999. For the first time, UK new business exceeded £500m. Sales for the group have trebled since 1995. Most of this growth has been in investment management (up 34%) and pensions and life products (up 10%).

However, L&G's operating profit on its mainly household general insurance business also grew by £6m to £20m, boosted in part by improved underwriting results. And the insurer's domestic mortgage indemnity business produced an insurance profit of £20m (£18m in 1998).

L&G said its continued operating and financial strength will allow it to declare a 14% dividend increase for the fourth successive year. Its priority for the coming year is to increase the range of general insurance products available on its Internet site.

The City is speculating whether L&G can remain independent following CGU's proposed merger with Norwich Union. But L&G's chief executive David Prosser, said it did have the strength to remain independent.

Although he admitted L&G could be more exposed to a predatory bid after its £10 billion deal to sell to Natwest collapsed.