Clientele Life is probably better known for its television advertising campaign than for its attributes as an investment proposition.The business is considerably smaller than assurance sector stalwarts such as Sanlam, Old Mutual, Liberty and MMI — and its shares are awfully illiquid. But since listing in 2008, Clientele has carved out a lucrative niche and generated some sterling returns. The latest interim results (to end-December) showed earnings up 10% to 66.45c per share with the embedded value number up 19% to almost R5.2bn. But there were some sensitive spots in the financial statements. The value of new business was down 18% and recurring embedded value earnings slumped 27% to R340m. It seems Clientele’s performance was smacked by higher-than-expected withdrawals. Management said it would focus on reducing withdrawals to more acceptable levels but noted rather ominously that much of the withdrawal activity stemmed from "an increase in spurious debit order disputes by policyho...

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