Sanlam to Chase Deal With Black Investors After Buying Saham

(Bloomberg) -- Sanlam Ltd. is ready to press ahead with the sale of a 5 percent stake to black investors as the South African insurer nears the finish line with its purchase of Morocco’s Saham Finances SA.

The Cape Town-based financial-services group announced Thursday it had satisfied all conditions to proceed with its plan to snatch up the shares of Saham Finances it doesn’t already own for $1.1 billion. The acquisition, its biggest ever, will make the company the largest insurer in Africa by geographical spread, with operations spanning 34 countries offering life, general and specialist cover.

After raising capital to finance part of the deal in March, Sanlam decided to hold off issuing further shares to fund the rest as it sought regulatory approval. With that in the bag, “we will proceed on the BEE deal,” Chief Executive Officer Ian Kirk said by phone, referring to black economic empowerment, South Africa’s drive to put more control of the economy into the hands of the black majority oppressed during racial segregation rule.

The deal will help Sanlam restore its capital reserves to between 2 billion rand ($137 million) and 3 billion rand, Kirk said. Ubuntu Botho, a black investment consortium lead by South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe, is Sanlam’s anchor empowerment partner.

Sanlam, which now owns 90 percent of Saham Finances, will also now begin merging its operations with the Casablanca-based firm. Saham Finances CEO Nadia Fettah and deputy CEO Emmanuel Brule will retain their positions and join the Sanlam Emerging Markets executive committee, headed by Junior Ngulube, the company said in a statement. Santam Ltd., a property and casualty insurer controlled by Sanlam, will own the remaining 10 percent of Saham Finances.

“It will take a bit of time to get the synergies through, but I am confident people know what they need to do,” Kirk said.

Here are some other comments from interview:

  • On selling Sanlam’s asset-management unit following Investec Plc’s plan to split some of its businesses:
    “Asset management is core to what we do. As far as South Africa is concerned, it may be appropriate to change the shareholding arrangements, but not to give up control."
  • On Sanlam’s multi-year partnership with Capitec Bank Holdings Ltd., with which it has launched a funeral cover product:
    The company is evaluating how to improve the funeral roll-out, while looking at “the next range of products over the next few years -- investment products, risk products, that kind of thing. It’s a nice opportunity."

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