Old Mutual ‘Very Keen’ on Increasing Stake in Indian Venture

Old Mutual Plc, Africa’s biggest insurer, is watching regulatory developments in India where the London-based company is keen to increase its stake in its venture with billionaire Uday Kotak.

“We’d certainly like to take up an increased stake in our business there,” Ralph Mupita, chief executive officer of the emerging markets unit at Old Mutual, said in an interview Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Old Mutual owns 26 percent of an insurance venture with Mumbai-based Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd. Indian lawmakers are expected next month to consider regulations that would allow foreign companies to increase their stake to a maximum of 49 percent, said Mupita, who met with Kotak in Davos.

On prospects for South Africa, Old Mutual’s biggest market, Mupita said consumers may have more to spend in 2015 as falling oil prices feed through to lower inflation.

“There is a bit of a cheap oil dividend,” he said. “We think that discretionary income is going to increase and that’s good, in particular for our retail business.”

Old Mutual may also benefit from economic stimulus by the European Central Bank, he said. The ECB’s quantitative-easing program unveiled Thursday will probably inflate asset prices, including the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, leading to a “reflating” of equities. “We make money off assets,” he said.

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