Transatlantic posts interims of pounds 27m

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TRANSATLANTIC Holdings, the life insurance and property group headed by Donald Gordon, a South African, reported interim pre-tax profits of pounds 26.6m in its first results since gaining a London listing last month.

This represents a fall from the pounds 34.2m that Transatlantic made in the first half of 1991, but the company said the two results were not readily comparable because of the extent of corporate activity in the past year.

This has included the lifting of Transatlantic's stake in Sun Life, the British insurer, to 50 per cent; a pounds 149m rights issue; and, since the half-year, the group's acquisition of the minority holding in Capital & Counties, the property subsidiary.

Last year's profit also benefited from the capitalisation of pounds 15.8m of interest payable in relation to CapCo's development of the Thurrock Lakeside shopping centre in Essex. David Fischel, Transatlantic's managing director, said CapCo stopped capitalising interest after June 1991, having decided there was little prospect of much growth in rental income from Lakeside.

Lakeside is about 85 per cent let and CapCo's shopping centre at Bromley is approaching similar levels. The final phase of its Watford shopping centre was only recently opened.

The group's portfolio of completed office developments is about 96 per cent let.

New business at Sun Life grew by 39 per cent to produce premium income of pounds 886.1m, or by 18 per cent on the weighted measure of annual premiums plus one tenth of single premiums. Sun Life sold some pounds 331m of single premium with-profits bonds during the half, despite cutting sales to protect its financial position.

Mr Gordon has declared his interest in acquiring further insurance or property companies. Mr Fischel said Transatlantic is not currently considering any deals though 'there are a hell of a lot of ideas'.

The group's borrowings of pounds 370m represent about 35 per cent of its shareholders' funds. The bulk of this is long-term debt with an average maturity of 30 years.

Transatlantic is increasing its interim dividend from 5.725p to 6p a share.