Strong U.S. asset-management results helped Principal Financial Group Inc. push up profits in the fourth quarter of 2004.[@@]

The Des Moines, Iowa, insurer is reporting $214 million in net income for the latest quarter on $2.2 billion in revenue, up from $204 million in net income on $2.2 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter of 2003.

Growth in pension account values and a $6.2 million income tax benefit led to an 18% increase in U.S. asset-management operating earnings, to $134 million, but life and health operating earnings fell to $53 million, from $66 million. Life and health profits fell partly because of a change in the way Principal values life and disability business, the company says.

- Jefferson-Pilot Corp., Greensboro, is reporting $146 million in net income for the fourth quarter of 2004 on $1.1 billion in revenue, up from $116 million in net income on $883 million in revenue for the fourth quarter of 2003.

A recently completed acquisition of Canada Life Assurance Company’s U.S. group life, group disability and group dental operations helped increase benefits net income to $20 million, from $16 million, but the narrow gap between the returns that Jefferson-Pilot can earn on its own investments and the returns it pays customers held down profits from the company’s individual life operations and its annuity and investment products operations.

- Phoenix Companies Inc., Hartford, is reporting $43 million in net income for the fourth quarter of 2004 on $718 million in revenue, up from $29 million in net income on $715 million in revenue for the fourth quarter of 2003.

Phoenix executives are talking about the value of their companies’ decision to sell its retail distribution operation in early 2004 and efforts to take a disciplined approach to sales of new products.

Wholesaled life sales fell to $41 million, from $78 million, and wholesaled annuity deposits fell to $94 million, from $154 million.

In the life division, “sales were lower due to the company’s decision to maintain pricing and risk-management discipline, particularly relating to the universal life contracts with low-priced, no-lapse guarantees,” Phoenix says in a statement about its fourth-quarter earnings.