RSA said that its efforts to clean up its portfolio after problems last year in its commercial insurance business were going well.

The company was hit in the second half of last year by big losses in some of its specialist businesses, and promised to exit some of the more problematic areas.

The insurer’s chief executive, Stephen Hester, said on Thursday said that those efforts were “on or ahead of schedule”, although he added that “the full earned effect of underwriting, pricing and portfolio changes will show next year.”

The comments came as RSA reported results for the first half of the year. Premium income was flat at £3.2bn, but operating profits slipped from £304m to £280m because it closed or reduced some lines of business.

The first half dividend was increased by 3 per cent to 7.5p per share.

The company’s Solvency II capital ratio — a measure of capital available as a proportion of the minimum required — edged up to 167 per cent, which is above the company’s target range of 130-160 per cent.

Mr Hester added: “RSA is reporting a solid first half 2019. Particularly pleasing is the improvement in current year underwriting results, which represent our best first half in the last 10 years. Our personal lines business continues to drive this performance.”

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