(Left to Right) CEO Negasi Yoseph (PhD), Abraham G. Amlak, board chairperson, and Mehari Redaie (PhD), vice-chairperson of Lion, prepare remarks during the general assembly of the firm held at Intercontinental Addis Hotel on December, 12, 2020.

Lion Insurance netted 51.8 million Br in profit over the last fiscal year, recording a 21pc rise from the preceding year. Though the firm registered remarkable growth, it was slower than the 44pc rate scored the previous year.

Its earnings per 25 Br share (EPS), the profit divided by the total number of shares, slightly decreased to 9.62 Br from 9.99 Br.

The profit after tax of Lion increased considerably, for which the management should be appreciated, according to Abdulmenan Mohemmed, a financial statement analyst with two decades of experience.

"The reduction in EPS is very modest," said Abdulmenan, who attributed the decline to a significant increase in paid-up capital, which grew by 26pc to 148.5 million Br.

Abraham Gebreamlak, the board chairperson of Lion, characterised the last fiscal year as a year of adversity.

But, despite all odds, the firm managed impressive achievements in various strategic activities that lay a foundation in sustaining Lion's versatility, according to Abraham.

"Despite the fierce price-based battle within the industry, erratic social unrest in the country, the unforeseen outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the subsequent market challenges that the insurance industry faced, Lion managed to accomplish remarkable achievements," Abraham remarked.

Yonas Alemayehu, a founding shareholder of Lion, also says that even though he had an initial expectation that the firm could amass a higher amount of profit, it managed to achieve a decent performance despite the multiple challenges the country faced on different fronts.

"It's surprising," he told Fortune. "And it's good that the firm didn't incur a loss despite all the challenges in the industry and the economy as well."

However, there is a lot the firm can do to improve its performance, according to Yonas, who says that the insurance market is yet untapped.

Yonas, who also works with the insurance company for coverage of his own firms, joined Lion  with a quarter of a million Birr worth of shares. However, his number of shares has since grown four-fold and surpassed one million Birr.

"I reinvested my dividends in new shares," said Yonas, who only received one dividend payment in cash over his 13-year stay with the firm. "We took the dividend that year since the insurance company couldn't raise capital."

Coming to the core insurance business, Lion's gross written premiums marginally grew to 389 million Br, a six percent rise from the previous year. Motor insurance was the largest share with 63pc followed by the liability and the pecuniary classes of business.

Out of the total gross written premium, 79 million Br was ceded to reinsurers. The premium retention rate ticked down slightly to 79.9pc from 80pc. The premium retention rate is still higher than the industry average of 77pc recorded in 2019.

Claims paid and provided for slightly grew by 1.6pc to 184.5 million Br.

Despite the increase in gross written premium and higher retention rate, the amount of claims is reasonable, according to Abdulmenan.

Lion’s income from investment activities increased considerably by 28pc to 47.6 million Br. Interest income went up by 84pc to 25.2 million Br, and dividend income grew by 72pc to 7.5 million Br. It also earned a commission of 21.1 million Br from reinsurers, five percent higher than the preceding year.

"Lion did very well in investment activities, for which the management should take credit," said Abdulmenan.

Staff and general administration expenses of Lion increased by 22.4pc to 121.4 million Br. Employee and staff benefits increased by 20pc to 72.3 million Br, while other operating expenses expanded by 31.7pc to 39.3 million Br.

During the reporting period, the firm managed to open two contact offices and upgrade a contact office to a full-fledged branch. It currently operates 36 branches and seven contact offices. It also expanded its labour force from 326 to 338.

Cash and bank balances increased by 15pc to 357 million Br. The ratio of cash and bank balances to total assets dropped by 0.7 percentage points to 42.4pc.

Lion's total assets increased by 16.5pc to 842 million Br due to increased cash and bank balances, financial assets, property, plants and equipment. The firm has 84 million Br as receivables from reinsurers, a significant rise of 35.5pc from the preceding year.

Lion has capital and non-distributable reserves of 189.51 million Br, which accounts for 22.5pc of total assets.

"This indicates that Lion has strong capital," said Abdulmenan.

The board of directors has proposed 20 million Br of the paid-up capital be allocated to commence life insurance business services. The firm has not been providing life insurance policies over the past 13 years.

It is a milestone for the company to launch the service at this stage, according to Abraham, the board chairperson.

"This crucial move will enable the company to march forward by exploiting the full potential of the market, which could lead the firm to a better position in the industry," Abraham said.

PUBLISHED ON Jan 02,2021 [ VOL 21 , NO 1079]

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