UPDATE 1-Insurer Phoenix to hike dividend after debt deal

Wed Jan 30, 2013 12:45pm GMT

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* Shares up 8.1 pct, 2nd-biggest gainer in FTSE mid-cap index

* To raise 250 mln stg via share sale

* Och-Ziff to take 9.2 pct stake

* Final dividend to rise 27 pct, further increases planned

LONDON, Jan 30 (Reuters) - British insurer Phoenix said a rescheduling and partial repayment of its 2.3 billion pounds ($3.62 billion) debt had cleared the way for big increases in its dividend, boosting its shares.

Phoenix expects to raise its final payout of the year by 27 percent after repaying 450 million pounds of debt, funded in part by a 250 million pound sale of new shares, and plans further dividend increases in future, it said on Thursday.

Phoenix said it had persuaded its banks to lift a cap they had imposed on dividends as part of a renegotiation which pushes the deadline for the repayment of 1.5 billion pounds of debt out to June 2019.

The company had been due to meet a series of "bullet" repayment deadlines in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Shares in Phoenix were up 8.5 percent by 1244 GMT, making it the second-biggest riser in the FTSE 250 share index, which was 0.4 percent lower.

"Today's actions strike us as sensible and the stock may benefit from greater certainty about part of its funding," Investec analyst Kevin Ryan wrote in a note to clients.

Phoenix's share sale is pitched at a 15.4 percent discount to the stock's closing price on Tuesday, the company said.

Hedge fund Och-Ziff has agreed to buy about 80 million pounds' worth, giving it a 9.2 percent stake in the company, it added.

Phoenix, formerly known as Pearl, was set up to buy and merge European closed life funds, but put acquisitions on hold after its heavy debt burden forced it into a financial restructuring in 2009.

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