Africa’s Biggest Insurer Exits U.K. Businesses to Sharpen Focus

Sanlam Ltd. is planning to exit several of its U.K.-based operations, including its life insurance and wealth management units, in order to free up capital for its expansion in various African markets and in India.

Africa’s largest insurer is buying a further stake in Morocco-based Saham Assurance SA for about 2 billion rand ($141 million) to boost its presence on the continent, where it already operates in over 30 countries.

“We will maintain an asset management business in the U.K.,” Chief Executive Officer Paul Hanratty said by phone. “Our other domestic businesses we’re exiting as they don’t form part of our strategy.”

The Cape Town-based firm has already received 75 million pounds ($103 million) for Nucleus Financial Group Plc after finalizing its sale in August and is exploring the disposal of its insurance, pensions and wealth businesses in the U.K.

The move falls in line with the insurer’s African focus, started three years ago when it paid $1.1 billion for Saham Finance. The CEO declined to disclose the value of the businesses Sanlam is exiting.

It’s also focusing on growing its market share in South Africa where it still makes most of its money. The nation has been hit hard by the pandemic, with Sanlam and its peers reporting record mortality claims.

The company is raising life premiums to protect its income base from the ongoing effects of Covid-19. It has also been recording increasing claims out of its markets in East and West Africa, Hanratty said.

The firm, which does not declare an interim dividend, reported a 16% increase in its net result from financial services for the six months ending in June, compared with the same period last year.

It’s appointed Carl Roothman, currently the head of Sanlam Private Wealth, to the role of CEO of Sanlam Investment Group with effect from January next year after the retirement of Robert Roux.