Prudential reported that general insurance gross written premiums rose by 17% in the UK last year.

General insurance single premiums increased from £334m in 2000 to £390m in 2001.

The figures were among better than expected new business results announced last week.

The Pru sold off its general insurance operation to Churchill in November 2001 in a deal worth £810m.

HSBC analyst David Hudson said: "They got a fantastic price for it, way beyond what anyone would value it at."

Its new business figures revealed that overall, UK insurance sales in 2001 totalled £5.8bn, an increase of 12% on 2000.

Chief executive Jonathan Bloomer was reported as saying the Pru was on the hunt for US acquisitions such as life companies and brokers.