LONDON, March 14 (Reuters) - British insurer Legal & General on Wednesday hiked its dividend by more than a third, easily beating analysts' forecasts, and exceeding the payout it made before an unpopular cut at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.
L&G, Britain's fifth-biggest insurer, will pay a total dividend for 2011 of 6.4 pence per share, an increase of 35 percent, and ahead of the 5.93 pence pencilled in by analysts in a company poll.
The move, which puts the payout above the 5.97 pence L&G paid in 2007 before a sharp cut the following year, came after the company narrowly beat forecasts with a 5.3 percent rise in 2011 profit.
The company had an operating profit for the year of 1.06 billion pounds ($1.7 billion), up from 1 billion pounds in 2010, and ahead of the 1.04 billion pounds expected by analysts.
L&G shares closed at 125.3 pence on Tuesday, valuing the company at about 7.2 billion pounds.