Stephen Cranston Writer & columnist

There is a lot of much talk of business incubation these days, usually associated with the technology sector. Yet this year perhaps the most successful incubator ever in SA, Lireas, celebrates its 30th anniversary. It invested in 62 businesses and helped start 52 of these. It has focused primarily on underwriting management agencies and of the 39 in the portfolio, at some point seven have failed. This would be an unusually good hit rate for a private equity business. Its main shareholder is Hannover Re, undoubtedly the least conventional of the German insurers, and it certainly helps that the current Hannover Re Africa CEO, Achim Klennert, has gone native and discarded his Teutonic approach. Hannover Re, previously called Hollandia, had a very close relationship with the founders of RMB, particularly Laurie Dippenaar, and played an important role in the launch of Discovery Health. Hannover Re had a very simple motive for setting up Lireas originally: to generate more reinsurance rev...

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