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SYDNEY, Feb 21 AAP

February 21 2013, 1:47PM

Wealth manager AMP has posted another year of profit growth as the consolidation of its $4 billion purchase of AXA Asia Pacific coincides with improving financial markets.

AMP reported a net profit of $704 million for the year to December 31, up two per cent from $688 million in the previous year.

Its underlying profit, which excludes costs related to its ongoing integration of AXA Asia Pacific, was $955 million in 2012, up five per cent from $909 million in 2011.

Chief executive Craig Dunn said the particularly strong performance of AMP's wealth management business reinforced the benefits of the 2011 purchase of AXA Asia Pacific.

Wealth management earnings were up eight per cent from 2011, while investment management business AMP Capital increased earnings by 19 per cent on improving market returns.

"AMP timed the early 2011 AXA acquisition superbly, with investment markets now turning and investor confidence recovering," Morningstar analyst David Ellis said.

Further improvements are likely as AMP's integration of AXA nears completion, he said, and its dividends could rise.

AMP's final dividend of 12.5 cents per share, franked to 65 per cent, was in line with the previous year.

Mr Dunn said investor sentiment was improving both domestically and internationally, but added that conditions in 2013 would still be challenging.

One negative point for AMP was the performance of its life insurance business, where earnings dropped as insurance lapses hit their highest levels in more than a decade.

AMP shares were up eight cents at $5.52 at 1341 AEDT.

By Drew Cratchley