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Film Review – YOUNG ADULT

Film: Young Adult
Director: Jason Reitman
Screenplay: Diablo Cody
Players: Charlize Theron; Patrick Wilson; Patton Oswalt; Elizabeth Reiser; Jill Eikenberry; Collete Wolfe
Genre: drama; dark comedy
Rating: ***½

Young Adult is as likely to make you cringe as cackle; it will offer hope as well as despair; the protagonist, Mavis Gary (Theron), is a brilliant study in beauty and ugliness, refinement and roughness. The film in other words, offers a clutch of contradictions and it is these dichotomies which lift the gritty realism of the film to a higher level of meaning. Mavis is externally beautiful when she makes the effort but initially a bout of depression deprives her of the will – so she slops around with hectic uncombed hair, plus big, baggy tracksuit pants and an unappealing ‘Hello Kitty’ t-shirt, which appears to double up as a night shirt. Her life in a cramped apartment in the concrete jungle, or, more specifically, Minneapolis, is drab, lonely, and devoted to meaningless rituals.
Mavis is recently divorced from Allan, and seems to have writer’s block when she should be pounding out the final book in a Young Adult series in which she is merely a ghost writer whose name appears in tiny print on the fly-leaf inside cover.
There is no actress in Hollywood who could carry off the complicated character of Mavis Gary better than Charlize Theron, the Hollywood hopeful who attracted notice by having a tantrum in an American bank. Mavis has a big mouth, confides ugly thoughts to friends and strangers alike, and can be crass and uncouth while flirting amorally with her former teenage boyfriend, Buddy Slade (Wilson), who is happily married and whose wife, Beth (Reiser), has just had a daughter and pounds drums badly in a local band.
Mavis’ life becomes imaginatively more romantic and an escape from drab realism. When she receives an e-mail from former-flame Slade, along with a cute picture of his baby, Mavis’ imaginary world is ignited with romantic possibilities of reviving the passion.
An important counterpoise to Mavis in the film is Matt Freehauf (Oswalt), a student non-entity whom Mavis remembers only vaguely as ‘The hate-crime guy’. Matt had been viciously beaten up by a crowd of jocks on suspicion of homosexuality; he had been permanently disabled and walks with a crutch, which Mavis thinks has become a symbol of his hopeless life. He, on the other hand, can recognise her misery as similar to his own. The dark humour rears up when it becomes clear that the publicity and sympathy engendered in the people of Mercury at this horrible attack dissipated completely when it was revealed that he was never a homosexual. Matt becomes Mavis’ doppelganger, always on the scene while she is attempting outrageous flirting with Buddy, who seems ‘a nice guy’ but incredibly dull and completely unambitious.
The humour is far outweighed by the poignancy of Mavis’ dilemma, even though she is hard to like: she is arrogant, self-assured, and does not suffer fools gladly or sadly. Still, when her cousin, Mike Moran’ discovers her in a bar while he is trundling round in a wheelchair playing snooker and heartily making the best of his disability, the gossip which is evoked by his positive heartiness is grimly humorous.
Much of the humour arises from dramatic irony of this nature: double entendres rely on the knowledge of the viewer in contrast to the ignorance of the characters. Buddy, for example, naively expresses the view that it would be nice ‘to pick up where we left off’ when we are fully aware of Mavis’ intentions to ensnare him, saving him from his unhappiness, an unhappiness which is as fictitious as her plans for her heroine, Kendall Sheldrick, who goes through the same angsts as the thirty-seven-year-old author directing the character’s life – although, ironically, Mavis seems absolutely incapable of directing her own in a positive or meaningful way.
The tagline of the film is ‘Everyone gets old; not everyone grows up’. When Mavis streaks off out of Mercury in her mini, leaving the emotional chaos behind her, we are left trembling for her future. The mediocrity of Mercury may have given her hope for the future but we are haunted by the dingy despair of the Minnesota apartment. We also contrast the hope of heroine Kendall Sheldrick, fresh out of college with a world of possibility ahead of her at the end of the Young Adult series, to the ephemeral hopes of ghost writer Mavis, heading for 40 with a world of failure behind her.

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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