Discovery said diluted normalised headline earnings per share totalled 416.9 cents in the year to end-June, compared with 365.5c a year earlier.
The insurer had flagged that normalised headline earnings - which excludes one-off times such as the acquisition of Standard Life Healthcare and increased stakes in PruHealth and PruProtect - had increased by between 10% and 20%.
Analysts had been expecting profit to rise by about 22%, according to the average forecast in a poll of 9 analysts by Thomson Reuters.
Discovery weathered the financial crisis and subsequent downturn in Africa's biggest economy better than some rivals as it focused on health insurance, which is less sensitive to economic cycles than life insurance.
Discovery said operating profit increased by 21% to R3.4bn, while new business premium income rose 24%.
Income from insurance premiums rose to R14.69bn from R12.49bn while annual gross inflows under management rose 14% to R35.96bn.
Shares of Discovery were down 1.9% at R56.85, compared with a 0.3% fall in Johannesburg's All-share index.