Insurance and financial services group Liberty on Wednesday reported a 61.4% increase in total death and disability claims being paid out to clients during the six months ended June 30, 2021, compared with its 2020 first half.
It paid out R8.5 billion during the period, largely due to Covid-19.
Liberty said the increase “is reflective of the severe impact of the pandemic” on its clients.
“Total annuity payments to clients during the period were R4.5 billion, a 10.3% increase on the comparative period, representing a critical injection of income into society to sustain many vulnerable people in the latter years of their lives,” the group added.
Despite the surge in pay outs, Liberty’s insurance business managed to pare its normalised operating loss in the half-year compared with its 2020 half-year.
It reported a normalised operating loss for the six-month period ended June 30, 2021 of R465 million, compared with a normalised operating loss of just over R1.54 billion for the 2020 comparative period.
In preparing for the financial fallout from the pandemic last year, the group established a R3.1 billion ‘pandemic reserve’ considering an expected spike in claims.
During the latest interim period to the end of June, it topped up its pandemic reserve by just over R1 billion.
“The pandemic reserve amounted to [just over] R1.5 billion before tax and non-controlling interests at 30 June 2021,” the group says in its Sens interim results statement.
This means around R2.6 billion from the pandemic reserve has been used, due to the additional demands on claims. It notes that R1.76 billion of this was “absorbed” during the six-month period to the end of June 2021.
“In addition, risk claims on short contract boundary business not absorbed by the pandemic reserve amounted to R388 million after tax and non-controlling interests’ share. This represents claims that were not covered through the pandemic reserve and represent excess claims not anticipated in the pricing of these books of business,” the group points out.
However, the group’s Shareholder Investment Portfolio generated a profit of R753 million in the latest interim period, compared with a loss of R631 million reported for the six-month period ended June 30, 2020.
“Liberty [group] is accordingly reporting normalised headline earnings for the six-month period ended 30 June 2021 of R288 million, compared to a normalised headline loss of R2 173 million in the prior period,” it noted.
“Normalised annual return on equity was positive 2.7% compared to negative 19.7% for the six-month period ended 30 June 2020.
“Headline earnings for the period of R222 million, which includes a negative adjustment of R64 million [June 30, 2020: negative R88 million] arising from the consolidation of the Liberty Two Degrees listed Reit, compares to a headline loss of R2 263 million [R2.26 billion] for the six-month period ended 30 June 2020,” Liberty highlights.
The group stressed that its operations “remain financially sound” and well capitalised.
It notes that the “Solvency Capital Requirement [SCR] cover ratio of Liberty Group Limited, the group’s main long-term insurance licence, [is] at 1.73 times” at the end of its half-year to June 30, 2021.
“The 30 June 2021 SCR cover takes account of the required increase in the pandemic reserve, underpinning our ability to fulfil our promises to policyholders and other stakeholders,” it adds.