FML bounces back

Clive Mphambela
RESURGENT Life assurance giant First Mutual  Ltd (FML) led a 52% increase in Afre Corporation’s half-year profit to June 30, 2012 as the group continued to recover lost ground.
Afre CEO Douglas Hoto said although the economy remained weak on the back of low agricultural output from persistent power shortages, underperformance of mineral revenues and tight liquidity conditions, the group had managed to grow profit for the half-year to June 30, 2012 to US$7,1 million, 52% up from US$4,7 million recorded in June 2011.

 
The strong performance was achieved on the back of gross premium income of US$44,9 million earned from a 5% increase on the prior year’s comparative of US$42,9 million. Of this, the life assurance and medical savings business contributed US$27,8 million, whilst the short-term insurance and reinsurance businesses accounted for US$17,1 million of gross premiums.

 
First Mutual Life, a division of FML, contributed 61% of the group’s total written premium. The life business achieved a gross premium income of US$10,2 million.

 
This was a result of the downward movement in the group’s life business, which suffered as more clients opted for segregated pension arrangements.

 
Whilst this was a 17% decrease from US$12,3 million achieved during the first half of last year, Hoto said the life assurance business intended to focus on acquiring new high-value schemes while at the same time retaining and achieving organic growth from existing clients.

 
Employee benefits premium income of US$5,4 million was 34% lower than the prior year’s figure of US$8,2 million, whilst individual life premium for the period, at US$4,8 million, was 20% firmer than US$4,1 million achieved last year on the back of an increase in the uptake of individual life and funeral cover products.

 
First Mutual Medical Savings Fund member contributions were 20% stronger at US$17,6 million, up from the June 2011 amount of US$14,1 million.

 
“Focus in 2012 is on improving claims risk management as a way of enhancing profitability whilst providing medical services at affordable cost,” Hoto said.

 
As a result of lower life premiums, First Mutual Life posted a lower technical profit of US$5,9 million, from US$6,7 million in June 2011.

 
Short-term insurer Tristar Insurance achieved a gross premium income of US$5,1 million, up from US$4,6 million in the comparative period.

 

Implementation of effective risk and claims management strategies resulted in profitable performance as the company made a technical profit of US$148,000 to June 2012.

 
Management has adopted strategies to grow the balance sheet by increasing the contribution of small to medium-risk clients, which can be retained to net, whilst maintaining the large corporate clients for commission income on the reinsurance ceded.

 
FMRE Property & Casualty (Zimbabwe) contributed gross premium income of US$10,4 million, a growth of 7% compared to the half year ended June 2011.

 
The company continues to increase its market share both locally and regionally. The major contributors to premium growth were the increase in fire business, significant farming business and the growth in treaty business.

 

Overall, the unit posted a technical profit to June 2012 of US$204 000  from US$477 000 in the same period last year.

 
On the insurance costs side, Afre Reinsurance ratio, at 19% represented US$8,6 million of the gross written premium, achieving a net premium of US$35,4 million, marginally higher than the June 2011 figure of US$34,6 million.

 
“There has been growth in volumes across all the business lines due to new markets, new and improved distribution channels and focus on superior service provision to clients,” Hoto said.

 
The fly in the ointment was investment income from quoted equities and returns from short term investments which amounted to US$1,6 million, compared to investment gains of US$4,5 million for the first half of 2011. The decline in investment income was largely attributed to the general fall in ZSE share prices.

 
However, the group remained focused on cost control, with total operating expenses for the period amounting to US$32,8 million, a decrease of 11% from the US$36,9 million incurred in the half year to June 30, 2011.

 
“All the group companies continue to prudently manage costs and enhance process and systems efficiencies resulting in increased profitability,” Hoto said.

 
The group achieved a total profit after tax of US$7,1 million, up from US$4,7 million in june 2011. The comprehensive profit attributable to shareholders after transfers to non-controlling interests and policyholders amounted to US$3,2 million, compared to a loss of US$2,4 million in prior year.

 

Consequently, shareholder profit for the period of US$3,2 million represented a whopping 233% jump from prior year.

 
Policyholder funds increased by 5% to US$70,07 million whilst the total asset base increased by 3% to US$169,3 million.

 
The claims ratio at 49% represented a 7% decline and the group’s cost-to-income ratio (CIR) also declined by 3% to 82%.

 
Pearl Properties earned US$4,2 million, up from US$3,9 million in June 2011.

 

The property business achieved a decent rental yield of 8,2%, with rentals per square metre of US$7,40, a slight improvement from US$7,3 achieved during the same period last year. Whilst this was slightly below the 2012 target of US$7,50 per square metre, the company managed to lower the vacancy rate for the period to 15,4% from 22,5% as it acquired new tenants during the first half of the year.

 
Occupancy levels for commercial offices located in the central business district remained under pressure, with tenants continuing to consolidate their operations as a means of reducing total space held and related operational overheads.

 
Rental income grew by 10% from US$3,1 million as at June 2011 to US$3,4 million during the current reporting period, whilst management says the company will seek to further enhance effective cost management and debt recovery on tenant receivables.