News Africa14 Oct 2019

South Africa:Biggest insurer in the continent aims to be the strongest in big markets

14 Oct 2019

South Africa's Sanlam, the continent's largest insurer, is working to be the top insurer in big markets, according to a report by Bloomberg.

“We need to be strongest in the big, important countries and obviously have the unique footprint that we have to make sure that we insure the corporates no matter where they operate,” Sanlam chief executive Ian Kirk said.

“At the moment in the insurance industry we are the only one really doing it but that will change no doubt,” he said.

Sanlam is getting breathing room to build on its biggest-ever acquisition and expand existing operations as rivals scale back on the continent and its main competitor squabbles with its fired chief executive.

The Sanlam group last year spent about $1.1bn to buy all of Casablanca-based Saham Finances and gain a footprint in more African countries than any other financial services company outside of banking.

This as South African peers including Liberty Holdings and Momentum Metropolitan Holdings focus on their home market and Old Mutual fights with ex-chief executive Peter Moyo while contending with hyper-inflation in Zimbabwe.

The insurer is seeking to benefit from a continent-wide push to improve access to financial services.

“We might just have a little bit longer to execute on the strategy,” Mr Kirk said. “But of course that doesn’t take the pressure off us to deliver.”

Founded in Cape Town in 1918 and now spanning 33 African countries and 12 others from the US and India to Saudi Arabia and the UK, Sanlam is growing its health, life, property and casualty insurance businesses to entrench its position on the continent.

The insurer is targeting consumers and multinational companies and extending its operations in Morocco, West and East Africa as well as Namibia and Botswana, the chief executive said. It is also seeking a foothold in Egypt.

Reinsurance

Sanlam is also looking at ways to bolster its reinsurance capacity with its general insurance unit Santam and expand offerings to become a top choice for multinational companies and their staff, said Mr Kirk.

Sanlam will look into “bolt-on acquisitions” in one or two countries, Mr Kirk said during the company’s first-half results presentation. The firm has a partnership in Ethiopia and will invest in the country when it opens up, he said.

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