Discovery reports Covid-related deaths of almost 5,000 members

Financial services group Discovery says it expects profit from operations to rise between 17% and 21% for the six months ended December 2020 compared to the same period a year ago.

However, higher average interest rates in South Africa (SA) and a strong recovery in the rand had a material impact on headline earnings, which are anticipated to decline by between 8% and 12% compared to the prior period, with normalised headline earnings are expected to change between -3% and +1% when the group reports its financial results on Thursday, 25 February.

“The period under review was complex, dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic with corresponding economic uncertainty, market volatility and societal need,” Discovery said in a statement on Tuesday (23 February).

The group said it experienced Covid-related deaths of almost 5,000 members.

Discovery manages 39% of the total membership of medical schemes in South Africa, including Discovery Health Medical Scheme (DHMS) – South Africa’s largest open medical scheme, with a 57% share of the open medical scheme.

South Africa’s Covid-19 daily infections continue to drop, with 792 new cases logged on Monday.

Health minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, expressed his condolences to the families of the 97 people who lost their lives to Coronavirus in the last 24 hours.

This pushed the death toll to 49,150, while the cumulative number of cases has peaked to 1 504 588 since the outbreak.

The operating performance of Discovery for the six months ended December 2020 can be summarized by the expected growth in normalised profit from the following operations:

  • Discovery Health 4% to 8%
  • Discovery Life 1% to 5%
  • Discovery Invest -5% to -1%
  • Discovery Insure 41% to 45%
  • VitalityHealth 22% to 26%
  • VitalityLife >200%
  • VitalityGroup >100%

Discovery said that the average effective interest rates used to value assets under insurance contracts in South Africa increased significantly during the last six months of its previous full financial year.

These average effective rates have elevated further, notably real rates, and the impact of this continued, reducing the value of assets under insurance contracts by R490 million (before taxation), net of discretionary margins.

This had a marked effect on headline earnings growth, as the comparative six-month period preceded this rise in interest rates, it said.

It said that with the strengthening of the rand, the impact over the period under review included foreign currency losses of R360 million (before taxation) on the translation of foreign currency assets, and a fair value loss of R210 million (before taxation) on the currency hedge.

Discovery said that it expects basic earnings per share, and HEPS for the six months ended December 2020 to decrease in the range of 5% to 15%.

Normalised basic headline earnings per share is expected to be in the range of -5% to 5% between 334.5 cents and 369.7 cents over the prior period.

Read: Half of South Africans have probably had Covid-19: Discovery CEO

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Discovery reports Covid-related deaths of almost 5,000 members