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Liberty Profit Grows 8% as Sales Rise, Clients Retained

Liberty Holdings Ltd., the insurer controlled by Standard Bank Group Ltd., said full-year profit rose 8 percent on increased premiums in South Africa as it retained more clients.

Net income climbed to 2.6 billion rand ($321 million) from 2.4 billion a year earlier, the Johannesburg-based company said today in a statement. Earnings a share excluding one-time items and accounting adjustments increased to 9.31 rand, beating the 9.22 rand median estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

The insurer has focused on distribution, introducing new products, training and working with advisers, all of which led to a growth in sales, particularly in retail, Steven Braudo, head of Liberty’s retail unit, said on a conference call. Retail earnings in South Africa gained 46 percent to 1.31 billion rand last year.

Liberty, along with parent company Standard Bank, has been targeting African expansion for the past six years as growth in its domestic market slowed. The insurer bought control of Kenya’s CFC Insurance Holding Ltd. last year to give it a foothold in East Africa. No further African acquisitions have been identified for 2012, according to the company.

“We are now in 14 African countries and along with our bancassurance model with Standard Bank, we have got a footprint,” Chief Executive Officer Bruce Hemphill said on the conference call. “Now we need to grow those operations and we can do that quite quickly.”

Liberty, the fourth-largest insurer on Johannesburg’s stock exchange by market value, has risen 13 percent this year, beating the 11 percent average increase of the five-member FTSE/JSE Africa Life Assurance Index.

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