Higher average shareholders' equity excluding revaluation reserves and lower net underlying earnings compared with the first quarter 2011, resulted in a return on equity of 6.9% for the first quarter 2012. Return on equity excluding the run-off businesses amounted to 7.8% over the same period.
In the first quarter, operating expenses decreased 7% to EUR 781 million as a result of cost savings, lower restructuring charges and divestments.
Sales and depositsAEGON's total sales increased 25% to EUR 1.8 billion. Increased new life sales in the Americas were offset by lower sales in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Strong gross deposits were particularly driven by pension deposits in the Americas and good performance in both the retail and institutional segments of AEGON Asset Management. New premium production for accident and health also increased strongly, mainly driven by travel insurance in the United States. Market consistent value of new business AEGON manages its business on an economic framework basis, meaning that it prices its products based on hedgeable market circumstances, versus assumptions about future economic conditions. As of the first quarter of 2012, AEGON starts disclosing the market consistent value of new business on a quarterly basis. At the same time, the publication of value of new business on the company's traditional embedded value basis is being discontinued. Compared with the first quarter of 2011, the market consistent value of new business increased slightly to EUR 125 million. Higher profitability in the annuity business in the United Kingdom and a higher contribution from mortgage loans in the Netherlands were partially offset by a decrease in value of new business in the Americas due to lower interest rates. Revenue-generating investments