JSE-listed financial services group Sanlam yesterday brushed aside the political talk in Morocco. Photo: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
DURBAN - JSE-listed financial services group Sanlam yesterday brushed aside the political talk in Morocco, which according to media reports could hamper its $1.1billion (R15.56bn) acquisition of insurer Saham Finances.

This comes after the South African government supported a political movement called Polisario Front which had been seeking self-determination in the Western Sahara territory since 1991. Morocco also claims ownership of that sparsely populated desert region.

Sanlam said it had noted the reports attributed to Moroccan billionaire Othman Benjelloun, but it remained business as usual for its operations in that region.

“Sanlam has been made aware of media reports referring to Othman Benjelloun’s comments about Sanlam’s acquisition of Saham Finances and other matters. Sanlam is confident about the strength and sustainability of its partnership with Saham Finances, which commenced in early 2016."

On Tuesday Benjelloun said South Africa has chosen the wrong side in a territorial dispute.

“We end up with a South African investor, owning a company that was Moroccan, on our own territory,” Benjelloun said on Tuesday.

“We are not going to hide that we have not appreciated this gesture,” he said.

Benjelloun is the chairperson of Morocco’s BMCE Bank and an influential voice in the North African country’s financial services industry.

Responding to the reports, Sanlam said: “The Saham Finances’ board, Sanam (Sanlam’s partner in Morocco), the executive team and staff are fully supportive of the partnership and our efforts to build a Pan African insurance group.

"We continue to leverage the synergies we have already identified to unlock value for our shareholders, clients and all our stakeholders.”

Sanlam announced the conclusion of the Saham Finances acquisition in October last year, describing it as its biggest acquisition to date, which would transform the group into a leading financial services player in Africa.

Sanlam has operations in 26 countries across the globe and the acquisition was expected to open the way for a major growth drive on the continent.

In the year to end December results released last month, the group announced that the integration of Saham Finances was progressing well as it reported an 8percent increase in net value of new covered business to R2bn.

Net fund inflows increased to R42bn during the year compared to R37bn reported a year earlier.

Sanlam share price remained unaffected by the latest developments as it gained more than 1 percent on Tuesday . However, the share price closed 0.92percent lower on the JSE yesterday at R77.50.