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

Johannesburg - Sanlam, the largest South Africa-based insurer, said full-year profit rose 40 percent after it sold more policies and recorded positive returns on its investments.

Net income for the 12 months through December climbed to 8.1 billion rand from 5.8 billion rand a year earlier, the Cape Town-based company said in a statement today.

Earnings per share excluding one-time items increased to 3.98 rand, beating the 3.80 rand adjusted-EPS median estimate of four analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Sanlam operates in Africa, Europe, the UK, US, India and Malaysia.

It has been expanding in African and Asian countries to find new regions that may help boost profit as growth in its home market slows.

Most recently its Nigerian life unit co-invested in Oasis Insurance for an undisclosed amount. Sanlam has a 4 billion rand cash pile which the insurer said it will spend to expand rather than paying a special dividend.

“Transactions likely to be finalised soon will utilise a large portion of the discretionary capital,” Sanlam said.

“In addition, a number of potential opportunities are currently being considered which, if successful, will utilise most of the remaining available discretionary capital within a reasonable timeframe.”

Equity investments rose after South Africa’s benchmark stocks gauge, the 165-member FTSE/JSE Africa All-Share Index, climbed 18 percent during 2013.

New business volumes jumped 36 percent to 185 billion rand.

The insurer’s final dividend increased 21 percent to 2 rand per share. - Bloomberg News