Liberty to return to profit, but has to put more money aside for Covid-19 deaths

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Liberty Life's regional office in Cape Town.
Liberty Life's regional office in Cape Town.
Netwerk24

Liberty says it has had to top up its R3 billion pandemic reserve as the last two waves of Covid-19 infections proved to be more severe than expected.

The insurer, which is in the process of finalising its financial statements for the six months to end-June, said death claims in the second wave exceeded its South African Retail and Liberty Corporate businesses' expectations.

"This, together with the impact of the current third wave and the associated prevalence of the Delta variant, has necessitated a top-up of the pandemic reserve," wrote the company in a trading update.

In the first half of 2020, Liberty set aside a R3 billion pandemic reserve, before tax, to cushion the group from the financial impact of Covid-19. It topped that up with another R73 million, before tax, at the end of 2020.

The insurer will give more details on Covid-19 death claims when it presents its interim financial results on 4 August. It will also announce the amount it's adding to the pandemic reserve then.

But the company said even with the new top-up, it remains well capitalised.

In terms of earnings, Liberty expects to return to profit. The company said it expects to report normalised headline earnings per ordinary share of between 96.6 cents and 118.0 cents. In the first half of 2020, the group reported a loss per share of 802.5 cents.

Liberty's headline earnings per ordinary share will be between 75.9 cents and 92.7 cents, jumping from a 855.2 cents loss per share in 2020.

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