Sanlam's Bellville head office in the Western Cape. Picture: David Ritchie.

Johannesburg - Sanlam, the largest South Africa-based insurer, said first-half profit rose 27 percent as the company expanded into emerging markets.

Earnings excluding one-time items and fund transfers climbed to 4.4 billion rand in the six months through June, from 3.45 billion rand a year earlier, the Cape Town-based company said today in a statement.

New life-insurance business volumes rose 7 percent to 89 billion rand, it said.

Sanlam’s emerging market deals in the past 12 months have included buying a stake in a Malawian insurer, a joint share in Nigeria’s Oasis Insurance, 51 percent of Malaysia’s MCIS Zurich Insurance Bhd and a 49 percent holding in NIKO Insurance Tanzania.

It has been expanding in Africa and Asia to find new regions that may help boost profit as growth slows at home.

“Our identified growth markets in Africa, India and South-East Asia made a strong contribution to the group’s results for the period, notwithstanding slower economic growth also being experienced in a number of those areas,” the company said.

Sanlam is the best-performing stock in the six-member FTSE/JSE Africa Life Assurers Index this year, having gained 28 percent. It rose 4.2 percent to 68.29 rand at the close yesterday in Johannesburg. - Bloomberg News