“Operating conditions remained challenging in South Africa,” the firm said in its half-year results on 5 September.
“Slower than expected progress, together with persistent political uncertainty, continues to hamper any improvement in business and investor confidence.
“These issues severely limited new business growth prospects. This was especially evident in our mass affluent and high net worth client segments, and is consistent with our experience in the last three quarters of 2018,” Sanlam added.
Despite this, it was still able to record a positive performance in H1 2019.
New business volumes increased by 4% to ZAR111bn (£6bn, $7.5bn, €6.8bn); and net fund inflows grew to ZAR23bn compared to ZAR19bn in the same period of 2018.
The life insurance arm produced a good set of results but faced some bumps in the road during the first half of 2019.
In Namibia new life business jumped by an impressive 72%; with Botswana reporting 17% growth.
In the group’s other African operations new life business written by Saham Finances, which was acquired in October 2018, rose to ZAR823m from ZAR61m in 2018.
This was despite a “ZAR83m one-off impact relating to a relaxation in the regulatory reserving basis in Kenya”, the firm said.
But the life business in India was hit by lower levles of new business, which only increased by 6%.
And, despite a “soft operating profit” in Malaysia, new life business volumes grew by 76% in the Asian country.
Sanlam’s wealth segment also delivered a positive performance with a gross result from financial services increasing by 11%.
But lower brokerage income in the wealth arm and bad debt provisions of around ZAR30m impacted the firm’s international business.
“The group does not expect a major recovery in the economic conditions in the remainder of 2019,” Sanlam said.
“New business growth potential will commensurately remain under pressure. Investment market volatility is also expected to persist, aggravated by tensions in the trade war between the United States and China.
“A recovery in the South African mass affluent and high net worth new business performance is largely dependent on developments in the political environment.
“Outside South Africa, new business growth in other emerging markets is expected to remain strong, supported by the base effect of the Saham Finances acquisition completed during the last quarter of 2018.”