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AIA Group's new business rose 28 pct last year on strong demand

(Adds financial details, company statement)

HONG KONG, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Life insurer AIA Group Ltd said on Friday new business rose 28 percent in 2016, buoyed by strong customer demand in its main markets in China and Hong Kong.

Value of new business rose to $2.75 billion for the year ended Nov. 30, from $2.20 billion the previous year, the company said in a statement. The category measures expected profit from new premiums and is a key indicator of growth.

Annualised new premiums rose 32 percent to $5.12 billion in 2016.

The company said it would pay dividends of 63.75 Hong Kong cents per share to shareholders, an increase of 25 percent.

Operating profit after tax rose 15 percent to $3.98 billion.

Shares in AIA dropped 15 percent in the December quarter, and were down 6 percent for 2016. It was their first annual decline since the insurer's market debut in Hong Kong in 2010.

"Asian macroeconomic fundamentals remain resilient and continue to deliver strong growth supported by domestic drivers of demand," the company said.

China and Hong Kong together accounted for about half of new business growth globally at AIA, which was originally founded in Shanghai nearly 100 years ago and was the first foreign insurer to obtain a license in China.

AIA's other major markets include Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia - the Southeast Asian countries that have become a battleground for foreign insurers attracted by the region's lower insurance penetration levels. (Reporting by Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru and Sumeet Chatterjee in Hong Kong; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis)