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Offbeat 25 August 2016

My end of town is small, an area of a few blocks, shops on one side and the other, one doctor, a chemist, a restaurant, a playground, a couple of pubs, and a hairdresser that I haven’t had the guts to try out yet. There’s even a doggy parlour, though I wonder how long that will survive the Angolan exodus.
The Angolans are different folks. Their animals are well dressed. If a dog has a shiny collar and a bunch of kids walking it, I know it is an Angolan dog. If a dog runs without a collar, but wearing a huge smile, and no humans in tow, I know it is Namibian. If I see someone with green dreadlocks shaped into a mohican, I know that person is Angolan. Other signs of people being Angolan seem to be bicycles, skateboards and those odd two-wheel things with motors on them.
Most of the Namibians grumble about the Angolans, but here in this village, if you question those grumbles, people begrudgingly give way.
The reason I talk about them here is that they bring diversity to this small corner of the world. Call it colour if you will. I used to think of diversity as many ingredients in one pot, but now I understand better that it is actually flavours that stand out, sort of like biting into a clove that has been added to a stew, rather than reducing the whole bunch of ingredients into one tasteless hash.
The Angolan exodus is reducing the flavour of the village. It’s cultural geography is shrinking once again. If the doggy parlour closes, I will know for certain that the village economy has also shrunk. The thing that makes the diversity important to me is that it is physical, something that I can observe in real life, not in the virtual realm.
On the other side of things, here on my computer, the idea of a village seems further away than ever. I remember being quite impressed with the idea of a global village, the ability to interact with someone living in a yurt in outer Mongolia. Given that people in outer Mongolia are probably posting pictures of cute kittens, and dire Rumi quotes, same as everyone else on earth, the optimism of meeting and interacting with that person has lost a lot of shine.
The last eight online months have been trying in the extreme. Mercifully the Olympics are over now, and all that is left is the US elections, at least for now. Thanks to social media and global news outlets, I get to participate in those emotionally. Thank goodness I don’t have any imperative to vote. That would tip me over a dark edge.
The internet is a very fundamental change of everything, with the massive degree of connectedness to everything. There is very little knowledge that cannot be found now. In light of that I asked myself a while ago how I and the people around me would evolve? After some thought, and watching myself, I find the answer disturbing.
Discriminating knowledge is less important than ever now. The items which occupy thought seem to be dominated by fad diets with quack results (no, I won’t eat only apples for seven days) and dumb conspiracy theories (no, the Namibian central bank does not belong to the Oppenheimer family).
A recent Guardian article summed the whole thing up perfectly, more or less thusly… the web is not profiting humanity by developing knowledge, instead it gives us the opportunity to be ignorant about far more things than ever before, due to the spread of topics. The article termed it ‘meta-ignorance’. I like that.
Here’s a perfect example. The conspiracy theory that holds that the Oppenheimer family ‘owns’ most of the world’s central banks could easily be discarded if anyone bothered to open it, read it, spot Namibia, close it and ignore it forever. Yet people are happy to believe anything.
There is too much information. Because there is so much, people can’t see the woods for the trees, and so they don’t stop to think hard about anyone thing.
I am not evolving anymore. Much as I need to know what people are doing and thinking I am turning off the computer in the evening. Call it devolving. It helps.

About The Author

Sanlam 2018 Annual Results

7 March 2019

 

Sanlam’s 2018 annual results provides testimony to its resilience amid challenging operating conditions and negative investment markets

Sanlam today announced its operational results for the 12 months ended 31 December 2018. The Group made significant progress in strategic execution during 2018. This included the acquisition of the remaining 53% stake in SAHAM Finances, the largest transaction concluded in the Group’s 100-year history, and the approval by Sanlam shareholders of a package of Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) transactions that will position the Group well for accelerated growth in its South African home market.

Operational results for 2018 included 14% growth in the value of new life insurance business (VNB) on a consistent economic basis and more than R2 billion in positive experience variances, testimony to Sanlam’s resilience in difficult times.

The Group relies on its federal operating model and diversified profile in dealing with the challenging operating environment, negative investment markets and volatile currencies. Management continues to focus on growing existing operations and extracting value from recent corporate transactions to drive enhanced future growth.

The negative investment market returns and higher interest rates in a number of markets where the Group operates had a negative impact on growth in operating earnings and some other key performance indicators. This was aggravated by weak economic growth in South Africa and Namibia and internal currency devaluations in Angola, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Substantial growth in Santam’s operating earnings (net result from financial services) and satisfactory growth by Sanlam Emerging Markets (SEM) and Sanlam Corporate offset softer contributions from Sanlam Personal Finance (SPF) and Sanlam Investment Group (SIG).

Key features of the 2018 annual results include:

Net result from financial services increased by 4% compared to the same period in 2017;

Net value of new covered business up 8% to R2 billion (up 14% on a consistent economic basis);

Net fund inflows of R42 billion compared to R37 billion in 2017;

Adjusted Return on Group Equity Value per share of 19.4% exceeded the target of 13.0%; and

Dividend per share of 312 cents, up 8%.

Sanlam Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ian Kirk said: “We are satisfied with our performance in a challenging operating environment. We will continue to focus on managing operations prudently and diligently executing on our strategy to deliver sustainable value to all our stakeholders. The integration of SAHAM Finances is progressing well. In addition, Sanlam shareholders approved the package of B-BBEE transactions, including an equity raising, at the extraordinary general meeting held on 12 December 2018. Our plan to implement these transactions this year remains on track.”

Sanlam Personal Finance (SPF) net result from financial services declined by 5%, largely due to the impact of new growth initiatives and dampened market conditions. Excluding the new initiatives, SPF’s contribution was 1% down on 2017 due to the major impact that the weak equity market performance in South Africa had on fund-based fee income.

SPF’s new business sales increased by 4%, an overall satisfactory result under challenging conditions. Sanlam Sky’s new business increased by an exceptional 71%. Strong growth of 13% in the traditional individual life channel was augmented by the Capitec Bank credit life new business recognised in the first half of 2018, and strong demand for the new Capitec Bank funeral product. The Recurring premium and Strategic Business Development business units also achieved strong growth of 20%, supported by the acquisition of BrightRock in 2017. Glacier new business grew marginally by 1%. Primary sales onto the Linked Investment Service Provider (LISP) platform improved by 5%, an acceptable result given the pressure on investor confidence in the mass affluent market. This was however, offset by lower sales of wrap funds and traditional life products.

The strong growth in new business volumes at Sanlam Sky had a major positive effect on SPF’s VNB growth, which increased by 7% (14% on a comparable basis).

Sanlam Emerging Markets (SEM) grew its net result from financial services by 14%. Excluding the impact of corporate activity, earnings were marginally up on 2017 (up 8% excluding the increased new business strain).

New business volumes at SEM increased by 20%. Namibia performed well, increasing new business volumes by 22% despite weak economic conditions. Both life and investment new business grew strongly. Botswana underperformed with the main detractor from new business growth being the investment line of business, which declined by 24%. This line of business is historically more volatile in nature.

The new business growth in the Rest of Africa portfolio was 68% largely due to corporate activity relating to SAHAM Finances, with the East Africa portfolio underperforming.

The Indian insurance businesses continued to perform well, achieving double-digit growth in both life and general insurance in local currency. The Malaysian businesses are finding some traction after a period of underperformance, increasing their overall new business contribution by 3%. New business production is not yet meeting expectations, but the mix of business improved at both businesses.

SEM’s VNB declined by 3% (up 6% on a consistent economic basis and excluding corporate activity). The relatively low growth on a comparable basis is largely attributable to the new business underperformance in East Africa.

Sanlam Investment Group’s (SIG) overall net result from financial services declined by 6%, attributable to lower performance fees at the third party asset manager in South Africa, administration costs incurred for system upgrades in the wealth management business and lower earnings from equity-backed financing transactions at Sanlam Specialised Finance. The other businesses did well to grow earnings, despite the pressure on funds under management due to lower investment markets.

New business volumes declined by 13% mainly due to market volatility and low investor confidence in South Africa. Institutional new inflows remained weak for the full year, while retail inflows also slowed down significantly after a more positive start to the year. The international businesses, UK, attracted strong new inflows (up 57%).

Sanlam Corporate’s net result from financial services increased by 4%, with the muted growth caused by a continuation of high group risk claims experience. Mortality and disability claims experience weakened further in the second half of the year, which is likely to require more rerating of premiums in 2019. The administration units turned profitable in 2018, a major achievement. The healthcare businesses reported satisfactory double-digit growth in earnings, while the Absa Consultants and Actuaries business made a pleasing contribution of R39 million.

New business volumes in life insurance more than doubled, reflecting an exceptional performance. Single premiums grew by 109%, while recurring premiums increased by a particularly satisfactory 56%.

The good growth in recurring and single premium business, combined with modelling improvements, supported a 64% (71% on a comparable economic basis) increase in the cluster’s VNB contribution.

Following a year of major catastrophe events in 2017, Santam experienced a relatively benign claims environment in 2018. Combined with acceptable growth in net earned premiums, it contributed to a 37% increase in gross result from financial services (41% after tax and non-controlling interest). The conventional insurance book achieved an underwriting margin of 9% in 2018 (6% in 2017).

As at 31 December 2018, discretionary capital amounted to a negative R3.7 billion before allowance for the planned B-BBEE share issuance. A number of capital management actions during 2018 affected the balance of available discretionary capital, including the US$1 billion (R13 billion) SAHAM Finances transaction. Cash proceeds from the B-BBEE share issuance will restore the discretionary capital portfolio to between R1 billion and R1.5 billion depending on the final issue price within the R74 to R86 price range approved by shareholders.

Looking forward, the Group said economic growth in South Africa would likely remain weak in the short to medium term future, and would continue to impact efforts to accelerate organic growth. The outlook for economic growth in other regions where the Group operates is more promising. Recent acquisitions such as the SAHAM transaction should also support operational performance going forward.

“We remain focused on executing our strategy. We are confident that we have the calibre of management and staff to prudently navigate the anticipated challenges going forward,” Mr Kirk concluded.

Details of the results for the 12 months ended 31 December 2018 are available at www.sanlam.com.