Sanlam is now Africa’s largest insurer after snapping up Saham in Morocco for about R15bn. David Ritchie / African News Agency (ANA)
JOHANNESBURG – Sanlam on Thursday became the largest insurer across the African continent following its $1.05 billion (R15.37bn) splurge on Saham after regulators authorised the purchase of more shares in the Moroccan insurance group.

Sanlam said the deal gives it access to 26 more countries on the continenent, in addition to the seven countries in which it already operates.

“The African presence of the combined group is unparalleled in the industry,” said Sanlam emerging markets chief executive Junior Ngulube.

“With expertise across life, general and specialist insurance and investment management in Africa, we now have significant opportunities for cross-selling and diversification.” Saham has operations across North, West and East Africa, as well as in the Middle East.

Sanlam’s acquisition of the remaining stock announced in March, brings its total investment in the company to almost $1.7bn since February 2016.

The transaction would see Sanlam taking ownership of 90percent of Saham Finances with the property and casualty insurer, Santam, holding the balance.

Sanlam said current Saham chief executive Nadia Fettah and deputy Emmanuel Brule would retain their positions and join the Sanlam emerging markets executive committee.

Sanlam group chief executive Ian Kirk said the conclusion of the transaction was a big step in the strategy to extend the company’s footprint in the continent. “The confluence of the combined footprint and respective expertise of Sanlam, Santam and Saham Finances provides the Sanlam Group with an opportunity to grow its Life Insurance businesses in Francophone markets as well as leveraging the group’s expertise to grow the general insurance portfolio,” Kirk said. “We are uniquely positioned to be the go-to financial services partner for multinationals doing business on the continent.

Sanlam and Saham only had joint exposure in Botswana, Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda.

Saham Finances, the Casablanca-based arm of the Saham Group founded by Moulay Hafid Elalamy in 1995, is the largest insurer on the continent outside of South Africa.

The company owns 58.48percent of Saham Assurance Morocco, which is listed on the Casablanca Stock Exchange. Sanlam first acquired a joint 30percent stake in Saham Finances in February 2016 and a further 16.6percent in May 2017.

At the end of last year, Saham had consolidated net assets worth $850million and $77.4m in earnings.

But some analysts have raised questions about Sanlam’s capacity to oversee such a large number of businesses.

“The deal would make most shareholders a little uncomfortable”, said Avior Capital Markets’ Warwick Bam.

Sanlam shares declined 3.73percent yesterday to close at R71.04.

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