Liberty Holdings Limited

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Liberty Holdings Limited
Public company
Industry Insurance, Asset management
Founded 10 September 1957 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Founder Sir Donald Gordon
Key people
David Munro (Group Chief Executive), appointed 2017

Liberty Holdings Limited (JSE: LBH) is a financial services and property holding company with headquarters situated in Johannesburg, South Africa at Liberty Centre, 1 Ameshoff St., Braamfontein. Founded in South Africa as the Liberty Life Association of Africa Ltd by entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Donald Gordon in 1957, the company's Assets Under Management have grown to ZAR 688 billion or USD 53 billion (as at 30 June 2017 and excluding inter-group Life Funds).


The company's expansion occurred through the introduction of innovative retirement annuities (since 1960), the development and management of major shopping malls, luxury hotels and high-grade office complexes commencing in 1975 with the Sandton City precinct in Johannesburg, universal life products (since 1983), fully underwritten medical insurance (since 1991) and pay-on-delivery investment products (since 2012).

Liberty Holdings Limited's predecessor was the first life assurer to list on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) in 1962.[1] Over the next 30 years, Liberty acquired South African insurance firms such as Manufacturers Life and Sun Life. Guardbank, which was STANLIB's predecessor (discussed below), commenced operations in conjunction with Barclays Bank.

During the 1980s, the company's founder established long-term insurance and property management and development ventures in the United Kingdom, with Liberty International bring formed in 1980. Liberty Life listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1981. In South Africa, Liberty Life became Standard Bank's dominant shareholder at the time, through a cross-ownership arrangement.

In 1998, Sir Donald Gordon stated that "[o]ver the past two decades, the increase in Liberty Life’s annual dividend has never fallen below 20% in any year and has averaged a 22,7% increase over that period compared to 22,1% achieved over a longer thirty-year time frame. This implies an increase in the dividend itself from an effective 1,4 cent dividend in 1969 to a level of 462 cents for 1998. I would like to believe that this consistency of long-term performance has not been matched by any listed company anywhere in the western world." [2]

By 1999, five JSE-listed entities and two London Stock Exchange (LSE) listed entities comprised the conglomerate to which Liberty Holdings Limited belonged and was detached through the process of corporate unbundling on the occasion of Sir Donald Gordon's retirement[3]. In addition, at that time, the aforementioned conglomerate's JSE-listed entities collectively had the second-highest market capitalisation of all JSE-listed companies. Standard Bank acquired 53.6% of the company in 1999 and has retained a majority equity stake in Liberty Holdings Limited since then. In 1999, Liberty Group Limited and Southern Sun each acquired a 50% stake in The Cullinan Hotel Pty Ltd which owned three hotels at the time.

Liberty Holdings Ltd via the Liberty Life Association of Africa Ltd sold its 40.8% equity stake in South African short-term insurer Guardian National in 2000. On 1 April 2005, Liberty Holdings Ltd via the Liberty Group Limited acquired 100% of the issued share capital of long-term insurer Capital Alliance Holdings Limited (excluding existing holdings), at a purchase price consideration of ZAR R3.047 billion, utilising excess shareholder funds. The acquired company then delisted from the JSE.

In January 2007, Liberty Holdings Ltd supplemented its 37.4% equity stake in asset manager STANLIB by purchasing 62.6% of it from Standard Bank and Quantum Leap Investments. In 2009, Liberty Holdings Ltd became the sole listed entry-point for investors when Liberty Group Ltd delisted from the JSE. In 2011, the group acquired Liberty Kenya Holdings, consisting of CfC Life (long-term insurance) and Heritage Insurance (short–term insurance) in Kenya, which have subsequently been re-branded as Liberty Life Assurance Kenya Limited.

Liberty Holdings Ltd bought 25.1% of the total issued shares in Liberty Health (which offers corporate clients, medical schemes and individuals short-term medical insurance contracts, medical risk management services, healthcare administration services and health-based IT systems) from the NHA Trust in 2014, thereby raising its stake in Liberty Health to 100%. In the same year, Liberty Holdings Limited's property management services business (Liberty Group Properties (Pty) Limited) developed a strategic partnership with the retail management division of JHI Properties (Pty) Limited and its parent company Excellerate Holdings Limited. Liberty Holdings Limited owns a 49% share in this property management services firm. In 2014, Liberty sold the 10% point part of its 50% holding in Cullinan to Southern Sun while Cullinan bought several hotels from Liberty and Southern Sun.

Since December 2016, the company effectively owns a majority stake in JSE-listed Liberty Two Degrees (JSE: L2D) - a diversified South African Real Estate Investment Trust which owns or co-owns some of the African continent's most valuable commercial real estate including Sandton City, Nelson Mandela Square (formerly Sandton Square) and the Melrose Arch complex. In 2017, the company has commenced with the reinstatement of a presence in the short-term insurance market through the establishment of a joint venture with Standard Bank.

Free uncapped WiFi has been offered to Sandton City and Nelson Mandela Square patrons since early September 2017 - the first occasion on which Liberty Holdings co-owned or fully owned shopping malls have offered such facilities.


  1. ^ Romain, Ken (1989). Larger Than Life, Donald Gordon and the Liberty Life Story. Jonathan Ball publishers. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Leadership Magazine, Special entrepreneur edition (2012). Sir Strenue, The (Liberty) life and times of Donald Gordon. p. 326. 

External links[edit]

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