Insurer Aviva Ireland said it made an operating profit on general insurance of €43m last year, up from €32m on the previous year, driven by lower expenses and reduced claims due to Covid-19.

Gross written premiums rose slightly to €474m from €466m in 2020.

"We continue to expand both our product and service offerings to large commercial customers," said Declan O'Rourke, Aviva Insurance Ireland chief executive.

"In 2020, we entered the financial lines market, expanding our range of covers to include professional indemnity and directors and officers insurance.

"We have also deployed significant new capacity in areas where insurance capacity is scarce, for example, the charity, leisure and community sectors."

Aviva Ireland also said it is fully supportive of the Government's Action Plan for Insurance Reform and welcomes the new personal injury guidelines implemented in April 2021.

"While we are seeing evidence of reduction in awards by PIAB, we are also seeing lower acceptance rates for PIAB assessments and a reduction in pre-PIAB settlements," Mr O'Rourke said.

"This will ultimately lead to more claims going to court, which is the most expensive claims settlement channel. This will undermine the impact of reforms."

The comments came as Aviva Ireland's parent company said it will return £4.75 billion to shareholders, as it reported a 10% drop in 2021 operating profit.

Aviva had previously said it would give back at least £4 billion to investors following a string of disposals. Activist investor Cevian has sought £5 billion in a cash return by the end of 2022.

Aviva has raised £7.5 billion from selling eight businesses across the globe since the appointment of Amanda Blanc as chief executive in July 2020.

"We've achieved a lot in the last year but we're only just getting started," Blanc said in a statement.

Aviva said today it was buying adviser Succession Wealth for £385m.

It upgraded its cost savings target to £750m for the 2018-24 period. Cevian had been pushing Aviva to cut costs more aggressively.

Operating profit from continuing operations was £1.63 billion, hurt by weaker performance in the insurer's UK life business.

Aviva said it would pay a total 2021 dividend of 22.05 pence per share, and expected a 40% increase in 2022 dividend to around 31.5 pence.