Anglo-South African financial services group Old Mutual reported a 20 percent rise in first-half operating profits on Thursday, beating forecasts thanks to a strong performance at its African, wealth and fund management units.
The results are the last for outgoing Chief Executive Julian Roberts, who makes way for Standard Bank executive Bruce Hemphill later in the year after a period of strong growth in which it has put greater emphasis on boosting asset inflows.
"Across the group it's been a very good first half," said Roberts, citing the higher operating profit of 904 million pounds ($1.41 billion), up from 755 million pounds a year ago and ahead of a consensus market forecast of 850 million pounds.
"In the sector we've probably got the highest profit growth at this period in time," Roberts said, with the firm's return on equity at 15 percent, at the top of its target range.
The firm said it would pay a dividend of 2.65 pence a share, up 8 percent and above the consensus forecast for 2.62 pence.
In response, shares in Old Mutual rose to the top of the FTSE 100 leaderboard, up 2.6 percent at 224 pence a share, when the index was down 0.3 percent.
Underpinning the profit boost were strong performances from across its various units, with net client cash flow into its UK business at 2.3 billion pounds and profits at its wealth management unit up 26 percent.
Profits in South Africa rose 14 percent, and in the rest of Africa rose 31 percent. Those for South Africa's Nedbank, in which it owns a majority stake, climbed 16 percent.
In the United States, meanwhile, the company said recently listed Old Mutual Asset Management unit had seen strong organic growth of 38 percent, helping group funds under management rise 7 percent in constant currency to 335.7 billion pounds.
Calling the results "a neat farewell" for Roberts, who leaves on Oct. 31, Shore Capital analyst Eamonn Flanagan said the results were better than the market had expected, but it was not enough to flag a "buy" call to clients.
"We await evidence of any success the group has in developing its holistic wealth platform in the UK before turning more bullish on the stock," he wrote in a note.
Unlike other insurers and wealth managers, Old Mutual has adopted an integrated model, whereby it has financial advisors, fund managers and private client services, after the purchase last year of Quilter Cheviot.
Roberts said he believed the group had the right model to succeed in the light of recent changes to the pensions and savings market that will see more money stay with the firm as fewer individuals in the UK withdraw money to buy an annuity, or income for life, a service offered by rivals only.