Liberty swings to full-year profit after first-half loss

South Africa’s number two insurer, Liberty Holdings, was cautiously optimistic for 2010 after posting lower full-year profit as stabilising equity markets brought it back to a profitable second-half from a first-half loss.

Liberty, majority-owned by Africa’s biggest bank by assets Standard Bank, said on Thursday BEE normalised headline earnings per share for the year to end-December fell to 47,2 cents from 740,8 cents a year-ago.

Total new indexed business fell 7,7% to R4,41-billion, with tough economic conditions weighing heavily on its corporate business.

Its retail unit reported growth in its risk and entry level products, but individual investment product sales fell 15%, showing customers continue to feel the strain as Africa’s biggest economy slowly recovers from a recession.

Liberty knocked investor confidence after swinging to a first-half loss last August due to rising policy lapses that hit its life unit hard as consumers struggled to keep up with payments amidst a recession.

Its peers have also been battling increasing policy lapse rates.

Liberty’s units include insurance, asset management, health and property.—Reuters

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