Liberty Shares Climb After Special Dividend, Profit Increase

Liberty Holdings Ltd., the insurer controlled by Standard Bank Group Ltd., climbed in Johannesburg trading after announcing a special dividend and posting a 42 percent jump in full-year profit.

The insurer will pay a special dividend of 1.30 rand a share after net income rose to 3.78 billion rand ($421 million) from 2.67 billion rand in 2011, the Johannesburg-based company said today in a statement. Earnings per share excluding one-time items increased to 14.37 rand, beating the 12.63-rand median estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Profit surged after a 23 percent gain in South Africa’s stock market boosted the value of Liberty Holdings’s investments. The insurer has operations in 14 African countries outside its home market after following Standard Bank in targeting expansion in faster-growing parts of the continent.

“Earnings were generated on the back of good investment performance on the group’s shareholder capital and strong operating performances by the core retail South Africa and Stanlib businesses,” Liberty Holdings said. “Our core insurance and asset-management businesses are performing well and we anticipate that they will continue to attract higher levels of new business at improved margin.”

Liberty Holdings rose 1.3 percent to 116.50 rand in Johannesburg. The stock gained 40 percent last year compared with the average increase of 45 percent on the five-member FTSE/JSE Africa Life Assurers Index.

Liberty Holdings announced a 13 percent increase in its final ordinary dividend to 3.36 rand.

(Updates with closing share price in fifth paragraph.)
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