Liberty lifts dividend after 10% rise in operating earnings

Listed insurer, Liberty Holdings on Thursday (27 February), reported a 10% rise in normalised operating earnings for the year ended December 2019 of R2.2 billion, “reflecting a good operational performance in the current economic climate, particularly in STANLIB South Africa and the Africa Regions continuing businesses”.

Headline earnings for 2019 of R3.3 billion, which includes a positive adjustment of R55 million arising from the accounting mismatch on the consolidation of the Liberty Two Degrees listed REIT, were 23% above 2018 headline earnings of R2.65 billion.

The group declared a gross final dividend of 436 cents per ordinary share, up 5%.

The Shareholder Investment Portfolio (SIP) earnings of R1 billion benefited from improved investment market returns, particularly in respect of foreign and local equities in 2019, the group said.

Normalised return on equity was 14%, compared to 10.1% in 2018.

The group value of new business of R407 million was 10% up from R371 million in the prior year with margin improvement from 0.9% to 1.0%.

“This outcome was mainly attributable to product enhancements and margin management supported by continued cost discipline, which mitigated the impact of low new business growth,” Liberty said.

Group long-term insurance indexed new business was 2% above 2018. Focus remains on sales efforts and new business volumes in the prevailing consumer environment in South Africa, the financial services company said.

Looking ahead, the group said: “Although we expect South African economic conditions to remain weak and are not anticipating an improvement in the economic environment, we are confident that our focus is appropriately directed to create sustainable longer-term value for all stakeholders.”

Read: Liberty launches digital ecosystem – with plans for digi-scan capability on its app

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Liberty lifts dividend after 10% rise in operating earnings