INSURER Liberty Holdings wants to further expand in West Africa and may have to make an acquisition in Nigeria as the country was not issuing licences to sell insurance, it said yesterday after the release of its interim results for the six months ended June.
Liberty's appetite for an asset management business in Ghana and an insurance business in Nigeria could be a sign that it is now comfortable with its businesses in SA and can turn its attention to this heavily populated region with high-growth economies.
Liberty is active in 14 African countries and now wants to have a bigger presence in West Africa. In Nigeria, Liberty has a partnership in its health business.
"The part of sub-Saharan Africa where we don't have enough presence is in West Africa. We will address that. The two opportunities are in Nigeria and Ghana ," Liberty Holdings CEO Bruce Hemphill said at yesterday's results presentation.
"In West Africa we will probably be forced to buy something because they are not issuing new licences. There are 160-million people living in West Africa. The projected GDP (gross domestic product) growth rate is expected to be better than China. We have a partner in Standard Bank. The opportunity cost of not being there is huge, and I am saying 'Let us be smart'."
Liberty is a unit of Standard Bank, Africa's largest bank, and the plan is to take advantage of Standard's presence there. Insurance heavyweight Old Mutual has a presence in Nigeria.
Stanlib CEO Thabo Dloti said there were opportunities in Ghana as regulatory reform there encouraged long-term savings.
Mr Dloti said in order to grow in Ghana, Stanlib, as an asset manager, had an opportunity to tap into emerging institutions dealing with long-term savings such as retirement. Stanlib is also a third-party asset manager and gets mandates from institutions to manage these funds.
"The African business has always existed, but we are low key. This year we are starting to think what we want to achieve in a lot of geographies," Mr Dloti said.
Liberty's financial results for the six months ended June 30 showed that headline earnings rose 42.5% to R1.6bn.
The group's main contributor to earnings, its South African retail business, had headline earnings 1.2% down at R648m. Liberty reserved more cash than needed for death and disability claims. Excluding this, headline earnings would have risen 14%.
Stanlib, the second major contributor to earnings, reported flat earnings of R300m.
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