Sanlam Full-Year Profit Little Changed as Life Insurance Slumps

Sanlam Ltd., the largest South Africa-based insurer, said full-year profit rose 2.3 percent after the value of new life business slumped and growth in its home market slowed.

Net income for the 12 months through December climbed to 8.94 billion rand ($587 million) from 8.74 billion rand a year earlier, the Cape Town-based company said in a statement on Thursday. Normalized earnings per share excluding one-time items increased 6 percent to 4.32 rand, beating the 4.28 rand adjusted-EPS median estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The dividend rose 9 percent to 2.45 rand a share.

Sanlam, which started in 1918, operates in Africa, Europe, the U.K., U.S., India and Malaysia. It has been expanding in African and Asian countries to find new regions that may help boost profit as growth in its home market slows. In South Africa, inflation and interest rates are rising along with unemployment, while the stock market gained just 1.9 percent last year, crimping returns for insurers. The country’s credit rating is at risk of being downgraded to junk this year.

“We expect the challenging economic climate to persist in 2016,” Chief Executive Officer Ian Kirk said in a separate e-mailed statement. The net value of new life insurance business declined 15 percent to 1.4 billion rand, the company said.

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