investments classified as available-for-sale of £1,726 million, offset by dividend payments to shareholders of £870 million. EEV shareholders' funds increased by
7 per cent to £53.4 billion (31 December 2018: £49.8 billion), equivalent to 2,055 pence per share6.
Our Group Solvency II surplus10,11 is estimated at £16.7 billion, equivalent to a cover ratio of 222 per cent (31 December 2018: £17.2 billion; 232 per cent).
We have increased our first interim ordinary dividend by 5 per cent to
16.45 pence per share, in line with our existing dividend policy.
Our broad portfolio of life insurance and asset management businesses, high- quality products with distinctive value- added services and multi-channel strategy ensured that we continue to benefit from growing demand for the health, protection and savings solutions we provide. Our APE sales5 in Asia reached £1,978 million in the first half, up 10 per cent4 (up 14 per cent on an actual exchange rate basis), leading to growth in new business profit of 10 per cent4 to £1,295 million (up 15 per cent on an actual exchange rate basis).
Our multi-platform distribution in the region, with strong agency forces and bank partnerships, and growing digital channels, is continuing to drive our performance. We have continued to grow on a broad base in the region, with APE sales5 growth in 11 markets in the first half. APE sales5
in Hong Kong increased by 5 per cent4 to £830 million, in Singapore by 8 per cent4 to £231 million and in Malaysia by 3 per cent4 to £122 million. In Hong Kong, 63 per cent of our sales came from visitors from Mainland China.
We are also seeing a stabilisation in sales in Indonesia following the refresh of our product line and action in agency force productivity, with a strong performance in the second quarter leading to overall sales growth of 4 per cent4. We have formed
a strategic partnership with PT Visionet International (OVO), a leading digital payments, rewards and financial services platform in Indonesia, which we expect will enhance our reach in one of Asia's largest insurance markets, with a population that is increasingly embracing digital tools.
Our sales through our joint venture, CITIC-Prudential, are up 45 per cent4 in the half year to £270 million, and we have received approval to open our 20th branch in Mainland China, in Shaanxi province.
Through our joint venture, we now have a comprehensive network of 231 sales offices in 89 cities, with access to regions accounting for 80 per cent of Mainland China's GDP.
Our Asian asset manager, Eastspring, has grown operating profit by 12 per cent, supported by disciplined expense management and the acquisition of TMB Asset Management in the second half of 2018. Its assets under management grew to £169.5 billion, with positive external net flows in the first half of 2019 of £3.1 billion, excluding money market funds (2018: net outflows of £0.9 billion on an actual exchange rate basis), driven by strong retail bond flows in Thailand and equity flows in Korean pensions.
We are continuing to develop our distribution reach in Asia, including through the renewal of our successful regional strategic bancassurance alliance with United Overseas Bank Limited, through which APE sales5 increased by
27 per cent4 in the first half. To ensure that we provide our solutions as widely as possible across the region, we have also been actively tailoring our propositions to suit digital sales channels. In the first half of 2019 we have activated our partnership with O bank, our digital bank partner in Taiwan, and will look to build on this success through UOB's new digital bank, TMRW.
We are continuing to build partnerships in Asia in a number of areas. We are committed to improving access to healthcare, and have launched Pulse by Prudential, a digital health app that is the first of its kind to offer holistic health management to consumers. The health technology and services company Tictrac has become one of our partners in Pulse, joining Babylon Health as part of our health ecosystem. Earlier this month, we also announced partnerships with Halodoc, Indonesia's homegrown healthcare start-up, to help deliver digital solutions that will meet a critical need for affordable and accessible healthcare, and with MyDoc, which offers consumers access to health services on their mobile phones. Following its launch in Singapore in 2018, we expanded PRUworks, our digital ecosystem designed to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) grow their businesses, to Indonesia. We have also entered into an agreement with specialist technology provider Hæ¯ lthTech, whose cloud-computing technology will be integrated into PRUworks and will facilitate the platform in offering one-stop access to
insurance products, employee benefits and business services to small and medium- sized enterprises across Asia. At the same time, we are making good progress with our tailored offering for high net worth clients in Singapore, Opus by Prudential, which is designed to address the unfulfilled wealth protection needs of this fast- growing sector. All of these initiatives enable us to offer improved services to more customers.
Our approach in this market has been to proceed with discipline. Consumer regulation in the US, while now starting to become clearer, has been uncertain for some time, and has resulted in an industry- wide slowdown in variable annuity sales. APE sales5 in the US were down 4 per cent4 at £831 million. Importantly, consistent with our intent to diversify our US product mix, fixed-index annuity APE sales5, at £93 million, rose as a share of APE sales5 from 2 per cent for the first six months of 2018 to 11 per cent in 2019. In addition, we successfully integrated last year's John Hancock paid-up annuities bolt-on transaction, which increased diversification and contributed materially to the US statutory capital generation in the period.
Jackson has a strong record of product innovation, exceptional distribution relationships, trust and credibility. During the period we added to our products in the fixed-annuity space, which we expect to contribute to sales later in the year. We have a leading position in the annuities industry, with strong long-term economics, and our operating platform has industry- leading cost advantages and is highly digital and scalable. We are in the process of driving a more diversified product mix and developing relationships with new distributors. We are actively exploring options to support the acceleration of this diversification, for example through reinsurance and third-party financing.
We have also continued to expand our presence in Africa, one of the world's most dynamic and promising regions. In July, we completed our acquisition of a 51 per cent stake in the leading life insurer, Group Beneficial, operating in West and Central Africa, enabling us to enter Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire and Togo. Combined with our launch over the last five years of businesses in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Nigeria, this latest step means we now operate in markets in Africa with a total population of almost 400 million. In the first
overview Group 01
performance Business 02
results basisIFRS 03
results basisEEV 04
information Additional 05