* 2016 operating profit up 58 pct to 164 mln stg
* IFRS statutory profit before tax for 18 mths 199 mln stg
* Total dividend 3.5 pence, up 6 pct
By Carolyn Cohn
LONDON, March 10 (Reuters) - British annuity provider JRP posted an above-forecast 58 percent rise in 2016 operating profit to 164 million pounds ($199.34 million) on Friday, the first results since the company was formed through the merger of two rival insurers.
JRP, formed in April 2016 through a tie-up between Just Retirement and Partnership Assurance and trading as Just, specialises in annuities for people with reduced life expectancy.
Operating profit for the 12 months ending Dec. 31, 2016 was forecast at 151 million, according to a company-supplied poll.
IFRS statutory profit before tax for the 18 months to December 2016 came in at 199 million pounds, JRP said in a trading statement.
JRP was focusing on price, rather than volume, it said, with new business margins rising to 6.8 percent from 3.3 percent.
"We remain selective in relation to new business," chief executive Rodney Cook said, adding that market growth was clearest in bulk annuities, involving taking on the risk of some or all of the members of a company defined benefit, or final salary, pension scheme, and lifetime mortgages.
Lifetime mortgages pay pensioners a fixed income against the value of their property, which is typically handed over as payment on the customer's death.
Analysts at Numis described the results as strong, reiterating their buy recommendation on the stock.
JRP said it would pay a final dividend of 2.4 pence and total dividend for 2016 of 3.5 pence, up six percent from a year earlier.
$1 = 0.8227 pounds Reporting by Carolyn Cohn; editing by Simon Jessop