Old Mutual’s life business recorded an overall sharp profitability growth in the full year period to December 2017.
The unit which is part of a group composed of 3 business units, reported a profit before tax of $132.16 million which is 265 percent above the profit level achieved in the same period in 2016.
The other 2 business clusters which complete Old Mutual Zimbabwe’s model include the asset management business as well as a mortgage banking institution, which likewise performed above expectations.
Driving the insurance business performance was an investment income growth of 462% to $601 million in 2017. This helped stimulate overall unit’s income by 168% to $793.4 million from $296.3 million achieved in the prior year.
Earned premium income however maintained a stable 4% growth year on year to $184.7 million in 2017 while service fees came off.
At this level of premiums, claims and benefits were sharply higher giving a claims ratio of above 100%. Industry report however shows that Old Mutual operated at a claims ratio of 66% in the third quarter of 2017 which compares less favourably to an industry average of 54%.
A higher investment income performance thus ensured overturning of overall profitability performance for the leading insurer. The investment income composed mainly of equity investment on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange which shot up in line with the broader market.
During the period the ZSE benchmark index rose by 130% and those with portfolios heavily tilted in favour of heavy caps achieving even superior returns. Old Mutual is the second largest portfolio investor on the ZSE, after state pension fund NSSA.
In 2017 the stock market enjoyed a sustained bull-run stretching over 8 months only stabilising in late in November after the change in government.
The core drivers of the rally were sharp increases in inflation and widening parallel market exchange rates which rendered local money less valuable relative to the USD.
Old Mutual was however concerned with the quality of these investment returns which it believed was not fundamentally driven. A market correction in recent months has helped bring prices closer to near fair value levels although most stocks remain overvalued.
The stock market is presently down by about 13% year to date having endured a 10 week prolonged successive decline. The market softening has temporarily been tamed by strong earnings so far released.