Liberty makes a grand comeback

2011-02-24 08:03

Johannesburg - Life insurer Liberty Holdings [JSE:LBH] reported a surging rebound in full-year profit on Thursday, as the economic recovery caused fewer customers to lapse on their policies and higher stock prices boosted investments.

Liberty, a unit of Standard Bank Group [JSE:SBK], said diluted headline earnings totalled 931.6 cents in the year to end-December, compared with 15.9 cents a year earlier. The results were widely expected after the company said this month earnings likely totalled between 890 and 980 cents per share. Headline earnings, the main measure of profit in South Africa, exclude certain one-time items.

Liberty and its rivals were hit hard by the 2009 recession in Africa's largest economy, when more than a million jobs were lost and household debts surged, forcing many customers to lapse on insurance policy payments.

Insurers were also hurt by the stock market slide, which ate into the value of their equity portfolios.

Insurance premiums for the year totalled R22.8bn, compared with R22.6bn a year earlier.

Shares of Liberty are up about 7% so far this year, outperforming Johannesburg's all-share index  which is flat.