Insurer Santam says it missed a target for net underwriting margins in the first four months of 2019 because of several major catastrophes in SA.

These included fires in the Betty’s Bay area in January; hail damage in Newcastle in March; and storm and flood damage in KwaZulu-Natal in April, Santam said.

The company also saw “significant crop insurance losses” from hail damage.

Santam said in an update to shareholders that its net underwriting margin for the four months to end-April was “slightly below the bottom end” of the target range of 4% to 8% of net earned premiums.

Underwriting margins refer to premiums earned compared to losses from claims and other expenses.

However, Santam said “acceptable growth” in gross written premium was achieved and investment returns on insurance funds were in line with a year before.

It said its commercial and personal intermediated business “experienced a strain on growth in the current difficult economic climate”.

The loss ratio in the business rose because of the catastrophes in the period. But Santam said its direct-insurer business, MiWay, “maintained its strong growth momentum from the second half of 2018”.

“The catastrophe events during the period had limited impact on MiWay and the loss ratio and underwriting margin improved even further relative to 2018,” the group said.

Santam’s shares were 0.9% up at R304.92 on Wednesday afternoon.