UPDATE 3-Aviva eyes cost cuts with Irish hub
* Sets up holding company for European ops in Ireland
* Sees "significant efficiency" gains
* Shares down 3 percent (Adds analyst reaction, updates shares)
By Myles Neligan
LONDON, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Britain's second-biggest insurer Aviva (AV.L) plans to cut costs by centralising its continental European businesses in a holding company in low-tax Ireland.
The overhaul, which also includes plans to simplify the company's European product range and speed up new product launches, will help it exploit "considerable opportunities" in the region, Aviva said on Thursday.
Aviva's Europe Chief Executive Andrea Moneta said Ireland's low corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent would cut the company's overall tax bill, but stressed that the projected efficiency gains did not depend on a lighter tax burden.
"The programme is going to deliver a set of improvements in terms of revenues and costs, and there is also room for improvement in terms of the blended tax rate we have," he said in an interview, declining to estimate the size of any cost savings or revenue gains.
"Our plan has very minimal reliance on tax advantages."
Aviva shares were 3 percent lower at 427 pence by 1453 GMT, in line with the broader UK life insurance sector, while the FTSE 100 share index was down 1.1 percent.
Aviva said the changes would ensure that the continental European division contributed towards the company's previously-stated target of doubling earnings per share by 2012.
Oriel Securities analyst Marcus Barnard said a doubling of EPS in Europe "would imply a significant upgrade to forecasts."
"The company have been a bit quiet on this recently."
The 12 European businesses that will be streamlined into the new Irish unit do not include Aviva's domestic British arm, nor its operations in the Benelux countries, where the company is in the process of floating its Delta Lloyd subsidiary on the stock market. (Editing by Rupert Winchester)
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