December 5, 2018 / 1:07 PM / 6 days ago

UPDATE 1-South African insurer Sanlam's shares fall on weak earnings

* Sanlam says headline earnings down 10 pct in first 10 months

* Figure compares to 22 pct rise in 2017

* Shares fall 4 percent (Adds detail)

JOHANNESBURG, Dec 5 (Reuters) - South Africa’s biggest insurer Sanlam said on Wednesday its normalised headline earnings fell 10 percent in the ten months to October, sending its shares 4 percent lower.

Sanlam attributed the results, which compared to a 22 percent rise during the same period last year, to a 55 percent fall in its net investment return, adding they showed “resilience” in a difficult operating environment.

“This is a pleasing result in the context of weak economic conditions in a number of our territories.. And significant volatility in global investment and currency markets,” the insurer said in a statement.

It added that the equity market in South Africa - its home country and largest market - had a particularly weak month in October.

Sanlam shares were down 3.8 percent to 77 rand at 1258 GMT following the release of the figures. Headline earnings is the main profit measure in South Africa and strips out certain one-off items.

The insurer also reported new business volumes of 188 billion rand ($14 billion), an increase of 3 percent, and said it had made strategic progress in the four months between June and October, when it completed the largest transaction in its history.

That was the $1.1 billion acquisition of the remaining stake in Moroccan insurance firm SAHAM Finances, which Sanlam said on Wednesday would give it a unique footprint and competitive advantage across Africa. ($1 = 13.7506 rand) (Reporting by Emma Rumney Editing by James Macharia)

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