Aviva USA ended 2012 in a "very strong financial position" despite a year marked by uncertainty surrounding its sale, President and CEO Chris Littlefield said this morning.

The West Des Moines-based life insurance and annuity company, which after months of speculation announced in December it would be sold to Athene Holding Ltd., reported record life insurance sales of $203 million, up 20 percent from 2011.

Annuity sales were $4.1 billion, down 9 percent from the prior year "due to our disciplined pricing and focus on profitability over volume," the company said in a release. Aviva USA's operating profit for 2012 was $311 million, which, excluding a one-time favorable item in 2011, was up 13 percent from 2011.

"These positive results despite all the challenges we faced in 2012 were made possible due to our employees' commitment to our success as well as to the very strong relationships we have with our key distribution partners and producers." Littlefield said in a release.

Aviva Plc, Aviva USA's London-based parent, reported a total after-tax loss of 3.3 billion pounds on the sale of its U.S. subsidiary, and cut its dividend by more than a fourth in a move to accelerate repayment of debt, Fox Business News reported. The dividend cut, Aviva's second in four years, came as the company reported a 15 percent drop in operating profit to 2.13 billion pounds, broadly in line with forecasts.

Under the reorganization plan, Aviva Plc has cut costs and raised about 2.4 billion pounds by selling less profitable businesses that tie up too much capital, including its U.S. subsidiary.

The sale is expected to be completed sometime this year; Aviva USA spokesman Kevin Waetke said Thursday that no specific date has yet been announced.