TransAtlantic wants bigger stake

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The Independent Online
TRANSATLANTIC Holdings, the property and life insurance group, yesterday confirmed its expansion plans in the insurance industry and said it would probably be adding to its 3 per cent stake in Sun Alliance, one of the UK's largest composite insurers.

TransAtlantic is controlled by Liberty Life, one of South Africa's biggest insurers. When it disclosed its stake in June, Donald Gordon, chairman, said: 'We see this as a strategic investment in embryo.' The company added that it was also investigating possible acquisitions in North America.

Results for the first six months, to June, showed a 7 per cent improvement in pre-tax profits to pounds 30.2m. After a sharply reduced tax charge, earnings per share were 18 per cent higher at 5.98p, almost covering an unchanged dividend of 6p.

TransAtlantic already owns 50 per cent of Sun Life, where strong sales in regular premium pensions in the first half of the year led to 'a sharp increase in market share'. Single-premium products also sold well despite the deliberate curtailment of sales of unitised with-profits contracts.

Sun Life contributed operating profits of pounds 18.5m compared with pounds 16.3m in the first half of 1992.

Commenting on the ruling by the Office of Fair Trading that independent financial intermediaries should disclose their commissions, Mr Gordon said: 'It is important that regulatory changes now being mooted should not be prejudicial to the industry as a whole, hindering its capacity to compete with other savings media.'

TransAtlantic also owns Capital and Counties, the property company responsible for developing the Lakeside shopping centre at Thurrock, Essex. Income from the division rose from pounds 33m in 1992 to pounds 36m, reflecting higher occupation rates.

Mr Gordon yesterday reiterated his criticism of the open-market basis of valuing properties. He said financial statements should be drawn up using a fair value measure, which would even out the troughs and peaks of the property cycle.

TransAtlantic shares, which have almost doubled since last October, closed unchanged yesterday at 321p.

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