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Film Review – LINCOLN

Venue: Cine 4, Ster- Kinekor
              Maerua Mall
Director: Stephen Spielburg
Screenplay: Tony Kushner
Players: Daniel Day Lewis;  Sally Field; David Stathearn; Joseph Gordon Lewitt; James Spader; Hal Holbrook; Tommy Lee Jones
Genre: historical drama
Rating: ***½

Abraham Lincoln is probably the most iconic political figure in American history and Daniel Day Lewis does achieve a multi-faceted character in his interpretation of this American President, best known for the abolition of slavery.
The film, though, deals with a very small part of his political career: his passionate devotion to passing the Thirteenth Amendment, a Bill which effectively ended slavery in America, prior to the conclusion of the Civil War and the re-unification of the northern and southern states. His determination to effect the passing of the Bill in the face of overpowering odds and a divided Republican party does illustrate certain aspects of his character: a razor-sharp intelligence honed by a legal background and experience; a misleadingly mild manner and quirky sense of humour which veils his iron will; and although he seems visionary rather than pragmatic, he does prove to be ruthlessly pragmatic and more than willing to obfuscate when necessary.
As with other films of the period, the abiding setting is gloomy and dark with verbose interchanges in dingy, stuffy, overcrowded interiors, filled with horse-hair-stuffed furniture and fussy ornaments. while brocade curtaining does a brave job of shutting out natural light. Most of the characters are white-haired gentlemen with faces sprouting healthy sideburns, or elegant goatees and handlebar moustaches.
Based upon a book, the film strives to be historically accurate and much of the weighty dialogue in polysyllabic English ( as testament to the level of education of the superior classes of the time) is devoted to explanations of the various arguments and attitudes of the political movers and shakers in 1865, four years into the Civil War.
The date at the commencement of the action is 1 January 1865 and most of the action covers the month of January and the ruses and strategies by Lincoln and his cronies to convert a 60 plus opposition to his Amendment to a two-thirds majority to carry his Bill. Crippled by a divided Republican party Lincoln pursues Democrats with messianic fervour, not sullying his own reputation with accusations of ‘buying’ votes, but employing a team of three dubious characters led by W.H. Bilbo (a portly James Spader) none of whom exhibit any qualms about the persuasive promises for patronage and position in exchange for supporting the Bill to Democrats in imminent danger of unemployment. It is only in the closing hours prior to the vote in the House of Representatives that Lincoln himself visits the president clandestinely, using any argument, either emotive or rational, which is best suited to change attitude.
Lewis is supported by a strong cast. Molly Lincoln (Field) is a bitter, grieving woman caught up in a syndrome of blaming her husband. She is depicted as her husband’s intellectual equal, and sits in the House with her maid daily to keep abreast of the avid and sometimes acrimonious debate. She understands his motives, logic, and argument, although she cannot adopt parity of reason: her basis for argument is womanly, based upon hatred of the war which took one of their sons.
The film depicts Lincoln as a master of anecdote: he has a simple homily for every argument based upon his own experiences, laced with quirky humour, which simplifies the situation for those who are less intellectually agile. His hesitancy of manner belies his mastery of political strategy but he demonstrates anger with Cabinet members who are sufficiently brave enough to oppose him. When Molly whines about the state of her health, owing to a carriage accident, which she is convinced is an assassination attempt upon her husband, Lincoln offers no remorse or guilt. In fact, he refrains from any comment whatsoever.
History has made Lincoln an icon; the film portrays a man entirely admirable but not always likeable. The heavy dialogue, for those who are sufficiently focussed to follow it assiduously, emphasises that the Amendment and the conclusion to the Civil War are irretrievably linked. Many are prepared to vote affirmative simply in the hope that the success of the Bill will trigger an ending to the war. Mr and Mrs Jolly, who come to see Lincoln to protest illegal tenancy of a toll booth, are harnessed politically to serve Lincoln’s cause. Lincoln proves a brilliant political opportunist, willing to veer close to the wind, legally and politically, to bend the citizens’ will to his own.

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.