11 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Alexandar Forbes Closes Zim, Moz Operations

FINANCIAL and risk services provider Alexander Forbes is reviewing its risk-broking businesses in Zimbabwe and Mozambique with a view to selling the businesses and finding other opportunities in the two countries.

The company will also launch an independent financial advisor strategy in April, as part of its plan to boost its retail business, which caters for individual clients.

"In Mozambique and Zimbabwe, we are consolidating the sale of our risk services," Alexander Forbes chief executive officer Mr Edward Kieswetter said. "Wherever we have traces of risk-broking left, we will clean up and dispose (of it)."

In 2011, Alexander Forbes sold its risk-broking businesses in sub-Saharan Africa for about R1,1 billion as part of its plans to exit the risk-broking business.

Mr Kieswetter said Zimbabwe and Mozambique were still important and the company would look for alternative opportunities.

He said Alexander Forbes might look at a good partnership that offered insurance, employee benefits and investments in order to keep the brand alive.

"We will always work with local partners that have good distribution capabilities."

Last year, Alexander Forbes also disposed of part of its UK consultants and actuaries unit for £17 million in cash to Jardine Lloyd Thompson.

Mr Kieswetter said the sale of the risk-broking business and the actuaries unit had helped reduce the group's debt. Alexander Forbes has debts of about R5 billion.

The bulk of that debt was with shareholders, with bank debt accounting for about R1,5 billion, Mr Kieswetter said.

On the continent, Mr Kieswetter said the company was looking to focus on growth in Botswana, Namibia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

In West Africa, it had a presence in Nigeria and was looking at possibilities to expand into Ghana.

With risk-broking business no longer a part of its strategy, Mr Kieswetter said more effort would be put into growing Alexander Forbes' retail and public sector presence.

"We have had double-digit growth in our insurance business and wealth management. Now we are introducing a third link, which is the independent financial adviser strategy with Investment Solutions," Mr Kieswetter said.

Under this strategy, Alexander Forbes would work with independent financial advisers, providing them with an offer to sell their investment products, he said.

"We are not just going to invite everyone. We are going for a small, select number of good-quality (independent financial advisers) so that we can give them a good bespoke offering. Our plan is to have a value proposition that attracts them," he said.

For this offering, Alexander Forbes would target the middle-to-high-income markets.

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