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RSA may beat analysts' 2016 profit forecasts, says CEO Hester

may beatanalysts' 2016 profit forecasts, according to CEO Stephen Hester.

Speakingduring a first-quarter earnings presentation, Hester said: "We are atleast on track for the analysts' consensus ... or maybe even better than that."

According to FactSet figures, analysts' mean estimate for2016 net income is £254.7 million, up from an actual £226.0 million reported byRSA for 2015.

In a prepared statement, Hester wrote that the year hadstarted well for RSA, with the "streamlined and focused" businessmodel already showing benefits.

He warned, however, that the external environment is"challenging, characterized by slow growth, competition and volatilefinancial markets."

RSAbooked net written premiums of £1.58 billion in the first quarter, down from£1.59 billion year over year. It noted that the first-quarter 2015 figureincluded premiums from its Latin American businesses as part of discontinuedand noncore operations.

CFOScott Egan said the firm's trading results in the quarter were strong and aheadof expectations, driven by solid underwriting performance.

Hesterconfirmed that the insurer has no plans for any further asset sales beyondthose already earmarked. RSA has successfully sold off businesses in Russia andLatin America, and said it expects to sell its two remaining Latin Americanoperations by mid-2016. Still up for sale is its Middle East business, forwhich the CEO confirmed there are no buyers yet.

Anoffer from forthe whole of RSA fell through last summer.

Quizzedabout whether he is looking for any other buyers for the group, Hester said heis focusing only on improving the business "blind to ownership."

"Wedo believe that this company can prosper independently for many decades tocome," he said, adding: "We further believe this streamlined shapethat we have now accomplished is the right one for the future."

Hestersaid RSA had had "some luck" in the first quarter as prior-yearreleases and benign weather flattered the insurer's results.

Weatherevent costs in RSA's core business came to £23 million, representing 1.5% ofnet earned premiums in the 2016 period.