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Microsoft joins MyDigitalBridge Foundation to bring broadband connectivity to Namibia

Although Africa has the highest growth rates in the world for mobile broadband penetration, wireless broadband services remain largely unaffordable throughout the region.

Microsoft Corp., MyDigitalBridge Foundation and the Millennium Challenge Account Namibia, with the support of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia, recently introduced a pilot project called Citizen Connect, designed to bring high-speed and affordable broadband access to the people of Namibia.
The project uses television white spaces technology, based on Dynamic Spectrum Allocation, to deliver high-speed and affordable internet access through unused television frequency, providing critical access to technology in remote and disadvantaged areas.

MyDigitalBridge is a Namibian not-for-profit organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of marginalized communities through equitable access to technology. The Millennium Challenge Account Namibia (MCA-N) is a development programme funded by the United States government to help reduce poverty through economic growth. This collaboration was created between MyDigitalBridge, MCA-N, and the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, an effort launched in February 2013 to help improve Africa’s global competitiveness. This is the fourth TV white spaces project Microsoft has undertaken in Africa, following Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.
The TV white spaces network in Namibia is expected to come online in the first half of 2014, connecting 34 schools and school circuit offices across the Ohangwena, Omusati and Oshana regions. The network will enable these schools to have affordable access to high-speed broadband for the first time, allowing them access to a broad variety of content and rich online services such as the WorldWide Telescope from Microsoft into their existing computer labs.
This network will also help further the goals of the Government of Namibia to bring universal and affordable broadband access and improved educational opportunities to its people. Additionally, MyDigitalBridge will make this infrastructure available to third party social entrepreneurs working to extend the reach of existing and new government e-services to currently unconnected citizens.
“With this in mind, the government of Namibia remains committed to meet its universal access and service obligations. The Communications Act of 2009 and the policy on Universal Access and Service have provided an enabling environment for organizations such as the MyDigitalBridge foundation. Universal access and service requires an environment in which both devices and services are affordable, where the necessary communications infrastructure is widespread and readily accessible, and where wide ranging choices of voice, data and broadcasting services is freely available, thus, in turn providing a range of content relevant to the people of Namibia,” remarked the Prime Minister, Dr. Hage Geingob.
Although Africa has the highest growth rates in the world for mobile broadband penetration, wireless broadband services remain largely unaffordable throughout the region. Microsoft’s efforts to increase access to affordable broadband services using white spaces technology have spanned the globe, including pilots completed or underway in Africa, the U.K., the U.S., Singapore and in the Philippines.The pilots have proven that TV white spaces and Dynamic Spectrum Allocation create a viable solution for high-speed access in rural areas, even for those not attached to the national power grid.
In addition to these on-the-ground deployments, Microsoft is also advocating for laws and regulations that promote more efficient and effective spectrum utilization as a member of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, a global organization launched in Singapore earlier this year.
Commenting on the unveil of Citizen Connect, Warren La Fleur, education sales lead for West, East & Central Africa at Microsoft said, “The goal of the 4Afrika Initiative is to accelerate economic development in Africa, by bringing affordable access, smart devices and relevant services to Africans. In this project, we are helping to make affordable access a reality for Namibia’s students and future leaders, helping them connect with each other and with the world.”

Dr. Hylton Villet, Chairperson of MyDigitalBridge stated, “Our organization aims to facilitate and implement private/public sector initiatives and to act in an advisory capacity to stakeholders, such as governments, telecommunication operators, and other private sector parties in order to bridge the digital divide.” Paul Rowney, Technical Director of MyDigitalBridge added “We hope that our foundation will facilitate and redress the human and financial capacity shortfall within national governments, bringing regional and global best practice and initiatives to fruition for the benefit of Namibians.”
Also present at the event were Albertus Aochamub, Director General of the NBC, Lazarus Jacobs, Chairperson of the Communication Regulatory Authority, Stanley Shanapinda, CEO of the Communication Regulatory Authority, Steve Dobrilovic, Country Director, Millennium Challenge Corporation, and Mary Grace McGeehan, Charge d’ Affaires at the US Embassy.

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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 www.sanlam.com.