"We are pleased with the strong performance that we are presenting today, which underscores our focus on delivering on our strategic objectives. The operating result from the ongoing business for the first quarter increased 3% to EUR 304 million. We are well on track with our expense reduction programme in the Netherlands, having already realised EUR 164 million of savings compared with our target of an absolute EUR 200 million cost reduction by the end of 2016. At the same time, lower funding costs also contributed to the improved results. Overall, new sales were up almost 11% this quarter. We completed a pension buy-out in the Netherlands, which substantially increased our new sales. Bancassurance sales in Japan grew further in line with our channel diversification strategy.
All in all, it was a good start of the year. However, there are areas where we want to further improve. In our Non-life business in the Netherlands, we are continuing with our management actions in order to bring down the combined ratio from slightly above 100% in order to achieve our target of 97% or lower by 2018. Growth in Insurance Europe has been held back by headwinds in the region, and therefore we are shifting our focus to promising growth areas such as protection products. Our asset manager had good inflows of assets in third-party mandates this quarter. We will continue our investments aimed at strengthening our capabilities in order to attract third-party assets going forward. It goes without saying that we remain focused on achieving our targets for all our operating segments.
We continue our journey as a standalone company. In February, ING Group further reduced its stake in NN Group to 54.6%. As part of this transaction, we took the opportunity to complete a EUR 200 million share buy-back. Another important milestone was NN Group's inclusion in the AEX index. Furthermore, the rebranding of our businesses from ING to NN is underway, creating a recognisable identity for our customers and other stakeholders, supported by a clear promise: 'You matter'.
In April we celebrated our 170th anniversary. Building on our strong heritage we will continue to keep a sharp eye on our strategic direction and a clear focus on executing our strategy."
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NN Group posts strong 1Q15 results