Our business was resilient against significant headwinds in 2019. We faced challenging macroeconomic conditions in South Africa, our largest market, and many
of our operating countries in the Rest of Africa. This put pressure on the disposable income levels of our customers and on the ability of our businesses to
grow value for our customers and investors. We remain confident that our diversified business allows us to protect value for stakeholders in tough economic
times. After careful consideration of the relevant facts and actions, our Board took the difficult decision to dismiss our former chief executive, Peter Moyo.
We remained focused on reassuring our customers, investors and employees during the heightened media attention and scrutiny that followed, through transparent
and regular communication. The Board remains confident that the decision made was in the best interests of our stakeholders and that their duties were
discharged in line with the high standard of governance and ethics expected of an established and respected organisation like ours.
Our financial results were resilient after taking into account the impact of external factors in our operating environment. Results from Operations (RFO)
decreased by 2% reflecting positive assumption changes offset by a decrease in Old Mutual Insure's underwriting result. Adjusted Headline Earnings (AHE) was
up 5% mainly due to stronger shareholder investment returns in South Africa, partially offset by reductions in the fair value of properties in East Africa. We
delivered positive Net Client Cash Flow (NCCF) which is commendable in the tough macroeconomic environment and Funds under Management (FUM) increased by 2% in
line with the increase in average market levels.
Our business in China showed good growth in 2019 and is well positioned to penetrate the life insurance market which is relatively new and underpenetrated.
Previously, we offered primarily investment products, but have since expanded our offering to include protection solutions such as life, disability and
critical illness. Despite tough external factors, we have made great strides to be more operationally efficient so we remain relevant to our customers of the
future. Since listing in 2018, we have been deliberate and focused on making what we believe to be essential culture shifts to champion positive futures for
our customers every day and to attract top talent. We have been working relentlessly to become a digitally enabled business. We have made good progress on
simplifying our legacy systems and processes, transforming the business to be more agile and able to meet our customers' needs and expectations. 2019 was a
year in which our customers and communities were vulnerable and we remained dedicated to make an impact to their everyday lives through our responsible
business efforts. Embedding a culture of being a responsible business has been a key focus since listing. We continue to create awareness amongst our
employees to act responsibly, as we believe this will positively impact our ways of working and interactions with customers and the communities we serve. We
have organised ourselves to make an impact through specific focus areas which align with the needs of our stakeholders and we are in the process of refining
targets to track desired outcomes in each focus area.
We returned significant levels of capital to our shareholders, including share buybacks totalling R4.9 billion and total ordinary dividends of 120 cents per
share, an increase of 3% from last year.
On 11 March 2020, COVID-19 (Coronavirus) was declared as a pandemic due to the rising rate and scale of infection observed. The rapid spread of virus since
the start of 2020, and particularly in recent weeks, has caused significant disruption in global equity markets. The volatility of movements on global
exchanges such as NYSE and FTSE is comparable to previous crises. In South Africa, the JSE SWIX has decreased by 23% since the start of the year to date. In
China and Italy, significant proportions of the populations have been quarantined to prevent the spread of the virus, with other countries responding to the
risk with increased screenings and travel restrictions.
We are monitoring this situation on a daily basis. We have established a special committee to ensure that our employees in all of our locations can continue
to work safely, whether that is from our premises or from their homes. We have placed restrictions on all cross border business and personal travel to ensure
we limit the risk of infection to our employees and customers. We also regularly model the impact of 'perfect storm' scenarios on our solvency capital and
liquidity levels. These stress tests have shown we remain sufficiently capitalised with appropriate liquidity levels through these scenarios. We remain
confident that the benefits of our well diversified business, strong balance sheet and stable cash generating ability will stand us in good stead, in what is
anticipated to be a difficult year.
The achievement of our RFO target of nominal GDP+2% CAGR is dependent on an improvement in the macroeconomic environment in South Africa, which remains our
largest operating country, and higher equity market levels. Given the anticipated disruption in global equity markets and significant downward pressure on
GDP growth rates we do not anticipate being able to achieve this target for the 2020 financial year.
Interim Chief Executive Officer