New business pushes S.Africa's Discovery H1 earnings up 22 pct

Thu Feb 20, 2014 2:51am EST

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JOHANNESBURG Feb 20 (Reuters) - South Africa's largest health insurer, Discovery Holdings, reported a 22 percent increase in half-year earnings on Thursday after booking new business across its products.

Discovery said normalised headline earnings rose to 296.2 cents a share in the six months to end-December from 243.1 cents a year earlier. It had previously said earnings would rise by as much as 25 percent.

Normalised headline earnings exclude certain one-off items.

Already wildly successful in South Africa, Discovery is hitching its wagon to China, where it purchased a 20 percent stake in Ping An Health in 2010, betting China's private health insurance market will grow with increasing incomes.

Discovery is also pushing further into the Asia-Pacific region and has formed a joint venture with Singapore's AIA Group in 2013.

Discovery, which also offers auto and life insurance, scaled up insurance premium revenue by 32 percent to 11 billion rand ($1 billion).

It paid an interim dividend of 413 cents per share in the period from 340 cents previously.

Its shares were down 0.9 percent at 0733GMT, bringing total losses to 7.6 percent so far this year. In comparison, Johannesburg's Top-40 index is up more than 3 percent this year. ($1 = 10.9115 South African rand) (Reporting by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; editing by David Dolan)

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