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UPDATE 2-S.Africa's Old Mutual holds off on dividend after half-year loss

* Insurer’s performance hit by coronavirus crisis

* Swings to basic loss per share, warns of full-year profit hit

* Suspends interim dividend, replaces targets (Updates dividend guidance, adds CEO quote, shares)

JOHANNESBURG, Sept 1 (Reuters) - South Africa’s Old Mutual on Tuesday put its interim dividend on hold, withdrew financial targets and warned of a drop in full-year profit after posting a loss for the first half.

The 175-year-old insurer posted a basic loss per share of 128.5 South African cents ($0.0764) in the six months to June 30. It had already flagged a loss of between 128.5 and 154.2 cents because of the coronavirus crisis.

Iain Williamson, who was appointed as chief executive in July after leading the company on an acting basis for more than a year, said it could make up for the suspended half-year payout at its annual results, depending on how the economy performs.

“I would expect in most scenarios we would be recommending to the board that we do pay a dividend at the end of the year,” he told Reuters.

“What that looks like I think we’ll have to wait and see.”

Old Mutual, which in recent years broke up an international conglomerate structure to refocus on African markets, said it had withdrawn its medium-term financial targets, replacing them with new ones more appropriate to the coronavirus crisis and focused on solvency and liquidity.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in hefty charges and provisions. That included impairments of about 9.8 billion rand on goodwill, other intangible assets and property, plant and equipment and associated undertakings, namely its more than 20% stake in South African lender Nedbank.

Its adjusted headline earnings per share fell 66% to 37.3 cents. Headline earnings per share (HEPS) is the main profit measure in South Africa, but strips out certain once off items that affected Old Mutual’s performance.

Old Mutual warned that full-year HEPS were likely to drop by at least 20%. Its shares were down 0.63% at 0702 GMT.

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