British insurer Aviva on Thursday said that the value of new business rallied 18 percent in the first quarter, helped by stronger contributions from Britain, as well as from Asia, France and Turkey. Aviva said in a statement that the value of new business rose to £191 million pounds ($290 million, 226 million euros) in the three months to March compared with £162 million a year earlier. The figure is a measure of profits expected to emerge from new business, net of costs. In reaction, the price of shares in Aviva -- Britain's second-biggest insurer after Prudential -- surged to the top of the London stock market. "Our key measure of growth has increased by 18 percent, driven by actions to improve profitability in UK Life and growth in our Asian business," said chief executive Mark Wilson in the trading update. Aviva added that operating expenses fell ten percent to £769 million in the reporting period, while restructuring costs stood at £54 million. The group had announced last month that it would axe about 2,000 jobs worldwide as part of its previously-announced plans to axe costs by £400 million. "Our operating expenses are now ten percent lower and we are on track to deliver our cost savings target of £400 million," Wilson added. In response to Thursday's trading update, Aviva shares rallied 4.77 percent to 338.5 pence on London's FTSE 100 index of top companies, topping the risers board. The FTSE was 0.10 percent higher at 6,700 points. In July 2012, Aviva said it would withdraw from 16 non-core business areas following a major strategic review that was aimed at strengthening its capital base and share price.