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Company Profile

LASACO Assurance: 40 years of resilience in the Nigerian Insurance sector

LASACO Assurance Plc has sailed through storms to remain one of Nigeria’s biggest insurance firms.

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Lasaco Assurance

The 2017 AXCO Global Statistics database ranked the Nigerian insurance market 72nd in the world, based on industry Gross Premium Income. The gross premium income is the key indicator of growth in the Insurance sector. 

The Nigerian Insurance market posted a 14.5% growth, from N372 billion in 2017 to N426 billion; and has continued to witness steady growth since 2014, when its Gross Premium Income: Non-life and Life business was N281 billion. 

However, the sector continues to face several challenges, and has not fully tapped into its potentials in one of Africa’s largest economies. The reasons which ranged from political will power to governmental policies has religious sentiments to contend with too. Some Nigerians would rather pray against disasters than insure against them.  

READ: Royal Exchange’s profit dips by 187% in Q3 2019  

Yet, insurance is not complicated. It is simply, an insurer ensuring installment for an unsure future occasion, while the insured or the policyholder pays an agreed premium to the insurer in return for that security. Since insured events are non-predictable, insurance firms only know whether a profit or loss is made at the end of a business year. 

Despite the plethora of uncertainties that plague the sector, LASACO Assurance has consistently weathered the storms in its 4 decades of rising through the ranks, to become one of the biggest insurance firms in Nigeria. 

READ: See the “score card” as insurance firms hurriedly release H1 2019 results

After going through several expansion moves, business modifications, and review of the minimum capital base by NAICOM; the company still stands strong as one of the foremost insurers, among the 57 registered insurance companies in Nigeria.  

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Our company profiles for the week beams its searchlight on LASACO Assurance Plc.   

Historical Metrics 

  • Though incorporated in December 20, 1979, as Lagos State Assurance Company Limited, LASACO did not list on the main board of the Nigerian Stock Exchange until 1991. 
  • It obtained its license as an insurer on July 7, 1980 and commenced operations the next month, with an authorized and fully paid-up share capital of N500,000. It offered several insurance options to the client base which was just starting out in Lagos state. 
  • Changed its name to LASACO Assurance Plc in July 1988 
  • In 1991, the company decided to explore the vast opportunities that could be obtained from increased capitalisation; and admitted its shares into the NSE through listing by introduction. 
  • With the capital available, the company’s operations over the next three decades expanded considerably to a network of about 13 regional and branch offices across Nigeria. 
  • The recapitalization exercise in 2007, to transact in Life and Non-life brought with assets to N8.26 billion; and LASACO Life Ltd with a capital base of N2b. 
  • The Directors proposed a dividend of 5kobo per share for the year ended 31 December, 2019 

READ: STANBIC IBTC posts Profit After Tax of N45.2 billion in H1 2020

Now, its operations span all classes of the Insurance and Special Risks business, high impact financial services and Real Estate. With a current Market Capitalization of N1.83 Billion, issued and fully paid capital of 7,334,344,000 at 50 kobo each, it continues to be recognized as one of the notable insurers in the country. 

According to information available on the NSE website, the company obtained a life insurance business license from National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) in 2007, and then separated the Life business, the assets, and liabilities to its subsidiary, LASACO Life Assurance Company Limited which commenced operations in January 2009.  

However, a court sanction in 2014 merged the operations of LASACO Life Company Limited and LASACO Assurance Plc to become a Composite Insurance Company, and this was approved by NAICOM. LASACO Life Assurance Company Limited, then ceased to exist as a Private Company, and became a department under LASACO Assurance Plc. 

READ: FUGAZ Banks revenue hits N1.57 trillion in H1, 2020

The 7- member Board of Directors is currently chaired by Mrs. Disu Aderinola, who joined in November 2015. Mr Segun Balogun is the Managing Director, and other members of the board include Engineer Ndanusa Sani (Director), Mr. Akinola Odusami (Director), Mr. Akin Doherty (Director), Mr. Abiodun Razzaq (DMD, Technical), and Mr. Oshinusi Rilwan (DMD, Corporate Services). 

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Operations and financial performance  

Over the decades, LASACO has successfully captured a significant share of key Federal and State Governments Insurance businesses, multinational and private companies, underwriting businesses in different sectors of the economy, including heavy Engineering & Construction, Banking & Finance, Manufacturing, Agriculture, and Tourism. It also covers special risks areas of Oil & Gas, and Aerospace. 

It operates in the Non-life business and Life business insurance, providing various classes of insurance such as general accident, fire, motor, engineering, marine, bond insurances, and life assurance businesses. 

As part of moves to ensure financial stability, the company has activated non-core business investments, and diversified its business interests to include Real Estate. It also holds shares in some blue-chip enterprises. 

READ: Flour Mills, 7 other quoted companies fined N14.3 million

 According to its Financial statement 2019 , Gross Premium Income (GPI) increased by 21% from N8.024 billion the previous year to N9.748 billion in 2019, while its Gross Premium Written (GPW) increased by 4% from N9.014 billion in 2018 to N9.341billion in 2019.  

It also achieved an Underwriting Profit of N2.298 billion, an 8% rise when compared with N2.121 billion recorded in 2018, while Claims paid was N2.171 billion, compared with N1.801 billion paid in 2018, indicating a 21% increase. 

The insurer annuity fund increased by 21% from N31.873 million in 2018 to N262.499 million in 2019.  

In spite of all these, the Profit After Tax dropped by 57% from N736 million in 2018, to N315 million.  

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In its recently released Q1 2020 result, the company saw its Profit after tax grow to N266.371 million, up 3.85 % from the N256.503 million in Q1 2019.  The Q2 2020 unaudited statements also reveals a profit after tax of N632.017 million, a growth of 5.59% when compared with N598.547 million in Q2 2019. 

The company grew its Gross Premium to N6.947 billion during the period from N6.877 billion in Q2 2019. Despite that, Underwriting profit dropped by 19.60% to N1.063 billion from N1.322 billion. 

Defaults and sanctions 

LASACO Assurance Plc was one of the companies that defaulted the deadline in 2020, for filing its audited FY 2019 financial statement; a move it attributed to unforeseen disruptions caused by the pandemic.  

This however, was not the first time the company would default on such procedures, and even the Compliance Status Indicator Code for LASACO Assurance Plc says, “MRF”. This means that the company was guilty of missing a regulatory filing deadline.  

Earlier this year, Nairametrics reported the list of companies fined by the NSE, for various regulatory breaches, and LASACO Assurance Plc was one of the companies fined for failure to file financial statement.  

Recent activities 

In August, the company launched an instant rescue solution, tagged LASACO Blue Response. The response solution aims to provide free tow service for vehicles with severe damage, particularly for vehicles owners insured by LASACO, and generally for motorists operating within major parts Lagos State. 

According to the statement from the company, this is part of the customer satisfaction drive, and hopes to make policyholders get faster compensation under their motor insurance policies by solving, “the most critical aspect of claim assessment, and settle minor automobile insurance claims immediately”.  

LASACO also recently paid claims to relatives of 32 deceased workers under the Group Life Assurance Policy of Lagos State. 

Ruth Okwumbu has a MSc. and BSc. in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Delta state university respectively. Prior to her role as analyst at Nairametrics, she had a progressive six year writing career.As a Business Analyst with Narametrics, she focuses on profiles of top business executives, founders, startups and the drama surrounding their successes and challenges. You may contact her via [email protected]

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Business Half Hour

Cloud services are your safest bet against data and intellectual breaches – Adejumo, Cloudflex founder

The rule of keeping data within the country of origin allows Cloudflex to collaborate rather than compete with international players.

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The Twitter community went up in flames last year when the official accounts of notable personalities like Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Barack Obama were hacked by individuals who managed to rip some followers of their cryptocurrency. Those accounts were suspended for some days pending investigations but what this did was to alert the world to the need for heightened cybersecurity in countries.

In Nigeria, particularly, where cybercrime has been on the increase in the last couple of years, cybersecurity is a touchy topic; especially since global laws expect that customer data should not be stored outside the company of origin and most of the cloud services companies are international. There is, however, a local cloud company providing cloud services for Nigerians in Nigeria.

Cloudflex was founded in 2016 and has focused on providing cloud support infrastructure and services for companies away from the company premises. Founder and CEO of Cloudflex, Remi Adejumo was a guest on Nairametrics Business Half Hour recently, where he explained that the company was created to provide tailored solutions for clients in the Nigerian space.

Having worked almost three decades in several institutions, the last of which was EcoBank Nigeria Plc where he was in charge of IT Infrastructure, Adejumo saw the opportunity to create a Nigerian-built cyber-security solution, “that is fully Nigerian and run by Nigerians.”

“This is not a service where one size fits all. We have our peculiarities as a market and we are designed to serve the Nigerian market. If you want to get a foreign cloud service, you could wait 6 to 8 weeks, but if you want to get one from Cloudflex, you could have it in 24 hours.” Adejumo explained.

When companies were making several adjustments to fully activate the remote-working policy at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, the importance of cloud services became more obvious. Companies needed a round-the-clock server from where the staff could access data from their homes and still work seamlessly.

The rule of keeping data within the country of origin allows Cloudflex to collaborate rather than compete with international players like Microsoft Azure and Amazon’s AWS, and use one another’s platforms.

There are a lot of security concerns about cloud services which some people think is not safe enough, but cloud-service providers would still insist that they are the safest option.

Hotflex

“The cloud platform is far safer than your own private server because your private server is on your premises and everyone knows where it is. From experience, 70% of breaches are done by the staff of your own organisation, and having a third party manage your own platform, means that you and your staff don’t know where it is. There is a protocol in giving access from the service provider, so security is higher. The data breach is not just financial, it is also intellectual. You can secure a building as much as you want, but as long as there is a door, somebody can still go in. That is the limit to your physical server in your office premises,” Adejumo explained.

There are also advancements in predictive learning, analysis, and reactive security, that allows the cloud systems to detect and flag activities outside the patterns until it is confirmed and validated.

Like most other startups in the tech space, funding remains a challenge. Adejumo recounts that the company started off solely on his savings and proceeds from the sales of some assets. Nigerian investors appear to still be sceptical of the tech startups and the result of this is that a lot of investment in the tech space comes from outside the country.

Cloud services will play a major role in the future of cybersecurity and Cloudflex is poised to take a space in that scene. According to Adejumo, the company is in the process of securing funds for expansion, although crowdfunding is not one of the options being considered.

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Company Profile

Interswitch: The story of one of Africa’s earliest unicorn companies

Interswitch has come a long way, pioneering the Nigerian digital payments system.

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Interswitch expands operations, acquires majority stake in eClat Healthcare 

One can hardly switch from the years of carrying large volumes of cash around to the years of using a card for financial transactions in Nigeria, without mentioning Interswitch.

Like the name suggests, the company uses a ‘switching’ infrastructure to connect the different banks in Nigeria and provides the technology now used for ATM cards. From a time when the company had only 3 banks on its network, Interswitch has grown in the last 19 years and now has 11,000 ATMs across different banks on its network.

How the journey started

A young graduate working in Telnet, Mitchell Elegbe was worried by the several inconveniences Nigerians had to go through to carry out financial transactions. From making long and stressful journeys to the banks, waiting in long queues, missing transaction deadlines, and increased loss of cash to criminals, that was certainly not the easiest of times to be an adult. Some opted for bank drafts to avoid carrying cash to travel, and I remember accompanying my mother to the bank a couple of time to buy a bank draft to pay my school fees.

READ: Interswitch to launch multi-currency prepaid card with Kenya’s credit bank

Many people had to join long queues at the banks on Friday evening to withdraw enough cash for the weekend, and this naturally meant that weekends became work hours for criminals. The most frustrating part of it was that the bank branches did not have any software connecting them, so customers had to continue withdrawing money from the exact branch they opened the account, even when they needed to make long business trips. Even the highway became a playfield for robbers.

The young Elegbe who had only worked two years after his National Youth Service Corps, came up with the Switch idea, but the plans did not materialise as many traditional players were not interested in buying the switch software.

Not deterred by this little glitch, Elegbe went ahead to establish Interswitch, an organisation which would use the Switch software to address the problem. This time, he got the support of Accenture, and also got buy-in from some banks to raise a part of the start-up capital. Getting a Chief Executive to head the company was the next hurdle to be crossed, as Elegbe recalls that most of the capable hands then available were expatriates “who expected to earn more than the company’s capital”.

READ: DEAL: Visa to acquire 20% stake in Interswitch, valuing it at $1 billion

Hotflex

In search of cheap labour, he had to take up the task even though he had very little experience thus resigning his job at Telnet. The shareholders and the sponsoring company (TELNET) had their concerns at first, but they gave Insterswitch a shot and under Elegbe’s leadership, the company pushed through the uncertain years to become what it is now. Eight years later after starting Interswitch, the company was valued to be worth N26 billion (over $170 million), giving massive returns to early private equity holders.  The company’s network grew steadily from 7 banks to 13, and then an ATM consortium and Globacom, a mobile telecommunications provider, up till this point when it has almost all Nigerian banks and 11,000 ATMs on its network.

Though Elegbe had no shares at the outset, his impressive performance earned him and his team some equity in the company in the coming years.

“So you have somebody who invested N10 million in this business going away with N2.6 billion after eight years. That to me was real value,” Elegbe said. When you help solve big problems, Mitchell says, you’re bound to be well rewarded.

Mitchell Elegbe is now the Group MD & CEO, Akeem Lawal is Divisional CEO, Switching & Processing Group while Mike Ogbalu is CEO, Verve International.

In 2019, Visa bought a fifth of Interswitch at a valuation of $1billion, making Interswtich Africa’s first fintech unicorn.

Interswitch is the owner of Verve, an international debit card and Nigeria’s most used payment card which is said to account for over 70% of the 25 million cards in circulation in the country. The company also owns Quickteller, an online payments platform; Retailpay, a mobile business management platform; Interswitch S&P, the first Nigerian in-country interbank transaction switching and third party processing for all card brands; and Smartgov, an identity management and e-payment infrastructure for state governments. Interswitch now serves almost all the state government of Nigeria, and is present in several other African countries including Kenya and Uganda.

Just last month, the group announced the launch of Quickteller Business – a new comprehensive corporate solution focused on empowering businesses of all sizes, to facilitate payments and manage transactions from anywhere in the world– through one, simple integrated platform. The platform added to its launch offer, a three-month zero transaction fee incentive for SMEs that sign up immediately.

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Buy-ins, acquisitions and buy-outs

Interswitch has had several achievements over the years, and some more distinct than others. Two-third of the company was sold to a consortium led by Helios Investment Partners in 2010, and barely a year after, Interswitch took a 60% stake in Bankom in Uganda.

In 2013 the payment processing company entered into an agreement with Discover Financial Services, and in September 2014, Interswitch acquired a majority shareholding in Paynet Group, an East-African payments provider.

In 2015 Interswitch launched a $10m investment fund for African start-ups in the payments sector, and has since then, strategically invested in other African startups in the payments services.

Interswitch has also acquired VANSO, a mobile-focused technology provider to banks. This new acquisition has VANSO’s mobile banking, SMS and security business lines being fully integrated into Interswitch’s digital commerce and technology operations in Nigeria, and across Africa.

The IPO that never was

It was in 2016 the Interswitch first hinted at an Initial Public Offering (IPO) on the London Stock Exchange and /or the Nigerian Stock Exchange as part of options to create possible exits for its backers, but that listing never happened due to “unfavourable economic situation”.

By July 2019, it was reported that Interswitch had resumed its IPO plans and enlisted JPMorgan Chase & Co and Standard Bank Group to work on the potential IPO that was expected to value the company between $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion. This listing was expected to come through by 2020, but it is believed that the COVID-19 pandemic and other economic issues which plagued 2020 may have altered the company’s plans.

A recent statement from the CEO says that Interswitch will continue with alliances in line with its growth plans, but an IPO might not be in immediate view. According to him an IPO may be considered when private equity investors want an exit out of the business.

In place of the earlier expected IPO, the company announced the listing of N23 million bond on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) in February 2020. The bond is to run at a fixed interest rate of 15% for a tenure of 7 years.

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