Santam offices. File Image: IOL

CAPE TOWN - Santam, South Africa’s largest general insurer reported solid underwriting results and strong growth for the year to December. 

The group reported double-digit gross written premium growth of 15% and a solid net underwriting margin of 6%, which is well within the target range of 4% to 8%.

The results followed a year impacted by major disasters which included the devastating Knysna fires, floods in Durban and hailstorms in Gauteng.

As a consequence of these and other claims events, Santam paid out R19 billion – compared with R16 billion in 2016 – in claims during the year under review, with R823 million paid out in claims for the Knysna fires.

The total claims paid relating to the Durban and Gauteng disasters amounted to R1.1 billion.

“The Knysna fires were one of the worst disasters in South Africa in more than a century.

“This, coupled with the devastation wreaked by severe weather in Durban and Gauteng, tough economic conditions and a surge in claims, made for a very difficult year. In the face of all these challenges, our business proved its resilience and ability to maintain growth, living up to our brand promise of delivering insurance good and proper”, said Lizé Lambrechts, Santam chief executive.

The company’s headline earnings a share increased by 31% to 1 425 cents from 1 086c in 2016.

The board of directors declared a final dividend a share of 616c compared with 570c in 2016, which is an 8% increase from the previous year.