Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Insurance-focused Rand Merchant Investment Holdings (RMI) warned shareholders on Tuesday that major items in its portfolio face headwinds in its 2019 financial year.

Management is still upbeat about the longer-term prospects but noted several factors that could constrain earnings growth in the current period, including possible additional expenses as Discovery continues with the launch of its bank.

RMI on Tuesday reported normalised earnings from continuing operations increased 14% to R4.47bn in the year to June, boosted by a strong performance in underlying investments Discovery and MMI.

RMI holds 25% of Discovery’s shares, along with 26% of MMI Holdings, both financial services companies. It also owns 88.6% of unlisted short-term insurer Outsurance.

In its outlook statement, the company said one factor that could strain its earnings growth in the 2019 financial year was exceptionally low claims in Outsurance’s SA and Australasian operations.

Cyclical movements, regulatory reform, the effect of Brexit on the environment in which Hastings operates and the repositioning of MMI could also weigh on performance.

MMI opted not to pay an interim dividend in its year to end-December. Normalised earnings from Discovery were up 16% to R5.4bn, while those from Outsurance, including its shareholding in UK-based Hastings, rose 22% to R3bn.