The search for insurer Great Eastern Holdings' next chief executive is "advancing at a much faster pace than before", said acting group chief executive Norman Ip yesterday.

"We've been with a number of chief executives, so we want to make sure we get the right person," he said at a media briefing yesterday on its full-year results.

Former chief executive Christopher Wei, who joined Great Eastern in 2011, resigned in June last year. Mr Wei left the company in September to become chief executive at rival insurer Aviva.

Net profit for the three months to Dec 31 grew 25 per cent to $207.8 million, compared with a year earlier, due mainly to higher unrealised mark-to-market gains and growth in operating profit from the insurance business.

Fourth-quarter operating profit from the insurance business rose 15 per cent to $155.5 million.

Quarterly gross premiums rose 6 per cent to $2.26 billion.

Total weighted new sales dipped 3 per cent to $296.3 million in the fourth quarter, but the insurer noted that sales at the Singapore bancassurance channel recovered from earlier quarters.

Net profit for the full year to Dec 31 surged 30 per cent from a year earlier to $878.6 million.

Profit from investments in the shareholders' fund for the year grew 21 per cent to $204.5 million, boosted by a one-off gain of $31.9 million in the first quarter as Great Eastern had lowered its stake in its China joint venture from 50 to 25 per cent.

New business embedded value for the year dipped 6 per cent to $394.3 million, while embedded value - an estimate of long-term economic value - rose 13 per cent to $10.4 billion, or $22.05 per share.

Mr Ip said: "We're in a fairly good position going forward into 2015. We have good performance on the investment side in 2014, and operation-wise, we are on fairly firm footing."

Earnings per share for the fourth quarter was 44 cents, up from 35 cents a year earlier.

Net asset value per share was $12.41 as at Dec 31, up from $10.73 last year.

The insurer declared a final dividend of 40 cents a share and a special dividend of five cents a share.

The results were announced before markets opened yesterday.

Great Eastern shares closed 24 cents higher at $24.40 yesterday.