Johannesburg - South African insurer Sanlam is in talks for an acquisition in Malaysia, where it could use some of its 4 billion rand in surplus capital, its chief executive said on Thursday.

Sanlam also aims to use the money to increase its stakes in existing businesses in Africa and India, Johan van Zyl told Reuters in an interview.

“We have around 4 billion rand ($475.83 million) of surplus capital and we've always been cautious so we won't spend all of it,” van Zyl said.

“Our key aim is to work with our partners and get a bigger stake. We know the businesses, we already have management there and that's the focus for the next year.”

Sanlam is considering a stake of up to 49 percent in Malaysian insurer Pacific & Orient Bhd's (P&O), a Malaysian weekly reported in August.

Van Zyl declined a comment on the report and said Sanlam was in talks with several players in Malaysia and was also interested in Indonesia.

Sanlam would like to increase its shareholding in the Indian businesses from the current 26 percent to more than 30 percent, he said.

The second-largest life insurer in South Africa, Sanlam operates personal finance and insurance businesses across Africa, Europe, India, Australia and the United States.

It has operations in eight African countries with majority stakes in countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Botswana and Namibia.

Sanlam said it had acquired the 50 percent of Satrix Managers it did not already own and another 50 percent in JPMorgan Chase & Co's South African investment administration operations.

Sanlam said first-half normalised diluted headline earnings rose 16 percent to 125.5 cents per share.

Its shares are up 1 percent at 37.62 rand, bringing this year's gains to 30 percent. - Reuters