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FINANCIAL CHRONICLE™ » DAILY CHRONICLE™ » Sri Lanka Islamic insurer hit by gold, equities losses

Sri Lanka Islamic insurer hit by gold, equities losses

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Kumar

Kumar
Senior Vice President - Equity Analytics
Senior Vice President - Equity Analytics
May 15, 2012 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s pioneering Islamic insurer, Amana Takaful PLC plans to invest more into fixed income securities, after its bottomline was hit by falling equity prices and lower returns from gold, officials said.

The insurance firm extended its post-tax loss to 83.0 million rupees in 2011, over 35.0 million rupees loss in the previous year.

The firm lost 92 million rupees in 2011, up from 35 million rupees a year earlier. It reported losses of 10 cents per share. Amana shares were trading flat at 1.80 rupees during early trade on the Colombo Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

Gross written premium rose 36.35 percent to 1.6 billion rupees for the financial year ended March 31, 2012. The group’s general takaful premium business grew 38.89 percent to 1.3 billion rupees, while the life takaful business rose 26.50 percent to 304 million rupees.

The group’s motor premiums rose 44.00 percent to 710.56 million rupees, cashing-in on a boom in vehicle imports.

But total claims exceeded a historic high of 500.00 million rupees, from 446.90 million in 2010, as motor claims rose 31.00 percent to 387.00 million rupees. The higher claims were blamed on rising motor-traffic related accidents.

Medical claims for 2011 were 103.00 million largely on account of claims from their Maldivian subsidiary.

"The main contributor to the losses of the general insurance business is the motor business. Steps have been taken to ensure all motor sub-classes are profitable through prudent pricing and underwriting strategies," Chief Executive, Ehsan Zaheed told shareholders.
Bullion Wave

The group also witnessed fluctuations in the world bullion market. In 2011, Amana Takaful invested 346 million rupees in the bullion market, net gains was only 13.25 million rupees, due to volatility in the gold market.

Bullion prices started from 1,400 dollars per ounce to hit a peak at 1,900 dollars per ounce in August, before falling to an average of 1,600 dollars towards end 2011.

A weak greenback and the Euro-debt crisis contributed to the bullion market’s fortunes last year, but Amana is optimistic gold could always bounce back to the range of 2,000 dollars and stay beyond.

In January 2012, gold prices picked up, averaging between 1,700 dollars to 1,750 dollars per ounce. This helped Amana Takaful, to recover their December losses, from falling market prices.

"Equity and bullion being volatile (are) investments where fortunes can swing ways,” said Zaheed.

"The Islamic finance system and especially Takaful, requires more avenues of investments in the form of Islamic Bonds (Sukuks) and relaxation of rules to invest in Islamic finance windows in banks, where there is low volatility," he said.

Economic analysts say de-leveraging (contractions in debt) in reserve currency countries or any deliberate monetary tightening can strengthen paper currencies and reduce the price of commodities.

Gold prices have moved up steeply compared to paper money from around the late 1960s. From 1792 to 1933 (nearly one and a half centuries) gold was about 20 dollars an ounce.

In 1933 - less than 20 years after the creation of the Federal Reserve - the dollar was devalued to 35 dollars an ounce shortly after the US central bank created an economic and stock market bubble which collapsed in 1929 triggering the 'Great Depression.'

In 1971 the US dollar went completely off the gold standard, creating purely fiat paper money amid heavy money printing, with the metal topping 80 dollars an ounce.

By the late 1970s gold was reaching 800 dollars an ounce following the so-called 'Great Inflation' period until then US Fed chief Paul Volcker raised interest rates to 18 percent and broke the commodity bubble.

In the 1980s gold fell to around 250 dollars an ounce and setting the stage for what was later called the period of 'Great Moderation', until money printing in the early 2000s created another economic bubble in the US which collapsed in 2007.

Amana Takaful now has five subsidiaries under its umbrella: Amana Global Limited (100 percent), Amana Takaful Maldives PLC (56 percent), Amana Asset Management Limited (100 percent), Amana Capital Limited (100 percent) and IGL Lanka Limited (100 percent).

The Maldivian subsidiary was listed on the Maldivian Stock Exchange in 2011.

The group plans to divest stakes in its subsidiaries to reduce carried forward losses in the company. It did not disclose divestiture plans.
http://lbo.lk/fullstory.php?nid=1812509041

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