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27 January 2011 23:11

Davos 2011: Adrian Gore - CEO, Discovery

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Alec Hogg is a writer and broadcaster. He founded Moneyweb

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    ‘All of Asia…is a very compelling health insurance potential.’ Ad the markets.

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    ALEC HOGG: It's Friday at the end of January. It's got to be Davos. Hello, good evening and welcome to the SAfm Market Update with Moneyweb. I'm Alec Hogg.
        I'm privileged to have David Shapiro's alter ego here in Adrian Gore. I suppose David would be impressed to hear that.

    ADRIAN GORE: I appreciate the confidence.

    ALEC HOGG: Thanks for being the David Shapiro in the last couple of days, Adrian. Adrian Gore is the chief executive of Discovery - and you've today been focusing more on the health-related sessions.

    ADRIAN GORE : Ja. There's a very strong move here in Davos around non-communicable diseases, where more and more we are seeing that just the diseases of lifestyle - obesity, smoking, being sedentary - are massive causes of morbidity, mortality, which we know. That's been the core of our Vitality programme. And there was a session yesterday with Ban Ki-moon and some really top people on a bit like the HIV crisis - where the world kind of declared war on it. There was just mobilisation all over around bringing the price of ARVs down, etc. And there's a strong feeling we need to do the same on this, getting people to live healthier lives, incentives, the whole nutrition issue. So it's been a fascinating day. I was at a session this morning where I presented on Vitality, and there were a number of presentations dealing really on the home economics - why people don't live healthy lives. Really good stuff. PepsiCo was there, Coke was there, all the big health insurers were there. So there's a groundswell of movement around trying to make people healthier, particularly in the developed world. The statistics are horrific on certain issues.

    ALEC HOGG: I'd like to talk to you more on Vitality in a moment. But we've also see that on Moneyweb, for instance, on the website we do focus at a business-related audience, or high-income audience, and our best-read stories nowadays are health-related stories. We picked this up from the Wall Street Journal, whose best-read stories are health-related stories as well. So there's a huge amount of interest. But after you have a talk on part of your company, on Vitality, do you get mobbed afterwards by people wanting your business card and...?

    ADRIAN GORE: It's actually interesting. It was a session of about 60 really top health people. They were from the EU, there were big health insurers, so it was more of a policy kind of discussion. But I'll tell you this - we have a real, real capability that's unique. There's no doubt about it.

    ALEC HOGG: Well, you were in this market a longer time than anybody else.

    ADRIAN GORE: Thirteen years in this thing, so the clinical actuarial date of the capabilities are quite unique, and the world is going that way. Governments are trying to incentivise healthier lifestyles, companies are doing it internationally. So it is a real, real, big thing. But it is a fundamental issue that the world faces, and it's soluble.

    ALEC HOGG: One of the other themes -and it links to what you said a moment ago - of this conference has been multinationals looking for opportunities in other parts of the world, emerging markets in particular. Now we are a member of the BRICS so South Africa all of a sudden, all the South African companies, are coming increasingly into the radar - not that they weren't there before, but there's more attention on it.

    ADRIAN GORE: Absolutely.

    ALEC HOGG: What happens to a company like Discovery? You've done all the hard work, as it were, over the past few years, and you as the co-founder are still pretty young - do you get approached by multinationals, and is there a price at which you become a Massmart, which has just been bought out by Walmart?

    ADRIAN GORE: You know, it's interesting. I went to lunch with the CEO of Walmart, a small lunch, just on their strategy and trying to understand the dynamics. It's interesting how they are probing and trying to understand what they need to do. But I think health insurance is quite a local issue. It's not typically an industry where your international players move around and buy - which you might have in retail or in banking. So to an extent, if you look at Discovery, I don't think that we are in that kind of...

    ALEC HOGG: So no-one's knocking on your door, investment bankers, saying "hey, let's put you up for sale?"

    ADRIAN GORE: No, quite the opposite. We are talking to others now about using the Vitality capability, given these trends in the world. So no.

    ALEC HOGG: So an export of South African intellectual property, really?

    ADRIAN GORE: Ja, absolutely. We are trying to sell into China, do the opposite.

    ALEC HOGG: The Chinese story is interesting, Adrian, and we did talk about this yesterday, but there's a strong Chinese presence here in Davos, and you are pretty well involved there. What about India, though, because the Indian presence here is also big, it's also a big emerging market? Have you managed to get your toe in the water there?

    ADRIAN GORE: India is similar to China in the sense that it's emerging quickly and with any increasing prosperity private health care, health-care insurance becomes increasingly in demand. So all of Asia to an extent is a very compelling health insurance potential. We've had a number of discussions - there are really, really big opportunities. But I think we've got to try and stay focused because I think you can get in over your head. So quite complex. So we keep looking at these opportunities and I do think that coming to Davos when we talk about Vitality, it just increases the potential. We really do have a lot to offer. But I'd like us to stay focused. We've a lot on our plate.

    ALEC HOGG: On a broader perspective - and we are really tapping into a participant from the business community in South Africa who gets into places that unfortunately I can't get into - but from that broader perspective how have you felt the South African delegation's mood this year?

    ADRIAN GORE: I've found it very, very positive, wherever we've gone. There's a self-esteem, there's a feeling that the country has done well. There's a feeling that reality is better than perception, and we know that. So as a group we need to get that out there. There's almost a religion in South Africa - it's called pessimism. It's something that we have. And I think the delegation is quite unified. So for example this Walmart lunch had a number of South Africans there, I think telling a positive story about the potential, etc, etc. So I've found it very, very positive.

    ALEC HOGG: I sat next to Jabu Mabuza at lunch today, and he was most excited by one sms that he'd got from back home, to say that Madiba's on his way home, so out of hospital. And that's also that's been interesting - that the magic of Nelson Mandela certainly hasn't disappeared on the front page of all the international newspapers. Lots of people here are talking about it - have you heard, what's going on - and it's nice to know that he is in the right direction. But I guess, more than that, it does show you that South Africa's still in the conscious.

    ADRIAN GORE: Oh, there's no doubt. There's no doubt. When you are part of it, you kind of see the world through your own context, absolutely. It's amazing - he's magic, just how important in a  sense emotionally he is.

    ALEC HOGG: And he's been mentioned a number of times at the World Economic Forum, has Nelson Mandela, and we wish him a speedy recovery, and may he live till 192.
        To bring you up to date with the markets today - not good news. The all-share index dropped by 2%. And of the big stocks on the JSE, the banks took a bit of a pounding. We are going to talk to Mike Brown from Nedbank in a  moment. I hope he hasn't been influenced by this at all, and keeps his cheery personality, because Nedbank group was one of the biggest losers - down by 3%.
        Anglo Platinum was 3% lower - hopefully that's not on the news that came out yesterday from Cynthia Carroll that they have invested $500m into Zimbabwe - and hopefully they are going to reap the rewards from that into the future.
       ArcelorMittal the biggest loss on the JSE of the Top 40 shares - that's down just over 3%. But it is pretty much across the board as far as the miners and the resources and the banks are concerned. The only good news is really two of the Top 40 shares - that's all that were up today. Old Mutual about 0.5% higher and Steinhoff just under 0.5% stronger.

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