Just Retirement Group's total new business sales rose by 50% in the six months to the end of December with a 98% increase in defined benefit de-risking sales and a 2% increase in guaranteed income for life sales driving strong overall growth in premiums.

Lifetime mortgage advances of £237m, up 49% on the same period in 2014/15, in line with the group's 25% target of Retirement Income sales.

Operating profit increased by 43%, driven by a 153% rise in new business profit, partly offset by lower in‑force returns. The increase in new business profit reflected strong volumes, but also margin expansion due to an improving sales mix and helpful asset yields.

Other highlights:

· Record EV £1,144m (203p per share). Interim dividend of 1.1p. Group economic capital ratio 180%, Group Solvency II capital ratio 133% (capital comprised entirely of Tier 1), providing comfort to enable the Group to meet its growth plans. · Merger with Partnership Assurance Group plc due to complete in early April 2016. We remain confident of achieving at least £40m of cost savings, with the full run-rate being achieved in 2018.

Group chief executive Rodney Cook said: "The Group demonstrated further positive momentum in the second half of 2015, with a 50% increase in sales and a 43% increase in operating profit. In addition to this strong performance we are about to complete our merger with Partnership Assurance.

We are pleased with our progress to date in the evolving pensions landscape and changing regulatory environment. For the future, the DB market offers significant potential and today's figures show that we have real traction in this area. Meanwhile, the individual GIfL market has stabilised and we expect to see a return to longer-term growth here too. "The merger with Partnership provides us with a further source of earnings growth, and it will enable us to drive significant cost efficiencies, underpinning our value-for-money products. The integration planning we are doing confirms our confidence in achieving at least £40m of cost savings. "I also want to thank our colleagues once again, not just for delivering these record results, but also for coping with a period of uncertainty and for maintaining a strong focus on delivering for our customers which has been demonstrated by winning the UK's top Quality Service Provider Award from the Institute of Customer Service. The resilience of our colleagues is confirmed by our ranking once again among The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For. "I am pleased that the Just Retirement chapter is ending on a high note and these results give me confidence as to the future for the Combined Group."