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Old Mutual starts $560m Africa expansion plan

Old Mutual plans to buy minority and majority stakes in businesses in east and west Africa.

Old mutual

LONDON - Anglo-South African insurer Old Mutual is setting aside R5 billion to fund expansion in fast-growing sub-Saharan Africa.

Old Mutual, which last year bought the life insurance unit of Nigeria's Oceanic Bank, plans to buy minority and majority stakes in businesses in east and west Africa over the next three to five years, it said on Friday.

The company, which reported higher-than-expected profit, said it wanted to cash in on growing demand for insurance across the region as rapid economic growth, fuelled in part by the natural resources boom, increases consumer spending.

"We believe that the prospects for growth in Africa are underpinned by sustainable, structural factors," Old Mutual said, adding that the continent's economic output is forecast to have quadrupled to $2 trillion between 2000 and 2012.

Old Mutual, which owns insurance, banking and fund management businesses across four continents, said adjusted operating profit for 2012 rose 18 percent to 1.6 billion pounds, narrowly beating the 1.57 billion pounds expected by analysts in a company poll.

The improvement was driven by a strong performance from Nedbank Old Mutual's majority-owned banking business, where profit rose by nearly a quarter to 828 million pounds, and good growth at its emerging markets businesses.

Old Mutual's asset management unit in the United States took in 900 million pounds of client money during the year compared with an outflow of 3 billion in 2011, its first positive annual inflow since 2007.

The company, which last year deferred plans to float the U.S. asset management business, said the unit was not yet ready to go public.

"It hasn't got to the state where it would be value-enhancing to do an IPO," Chief Executive Julian Roberts told reporters on a conference call.

Old Mutual's London-listed shares have almost doubled over the last three years, beating a 22 percent gain for the FTSE 100 .FTSE share index, as it sold businesses to repay debt and dispel investor worries that the group lacked focus and would be worth more broken up.

The disposals partly reversed an international acquisition spree Old Mutual began in 1999 to reduce its dependence on its historic home of South Africa.

The stock closed at 202.5 pence on Thursday, valuing Old Mutual at about 10 billion pounds. The company is paying a total dividend of 7 pence per share, an increase of 23 percent, and ahead of the 6.5 pence expected by analysts.

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