* Headline earnings per share up 10% to 188.5 cents
* H1 net operational profit down 39%
* New CEO Paul Hanratty took over in July (Recasts with strategy)
JOHANNESBURG, Sept 10 (Reuters) - South Africa's biggest insurer Sanlam SLMJ.J said on Thursday it will boost its international diversification strategy through bolt-on acquisitions and expansion into new markets.
The insurer's efforts to expand across the continent have helped offset a weak South African market.
In August, under new CEO Paul Hanratty, who took over from Ian Kirk in July, Sanlam reviewed its group strategy, which will see it accelerate growth outside of South Africa, the firm said.
Sanlam has also made a few executive changes and split its Sanlam Personal Finance business unit into two units - South Africa Retail Mass and South Africa Retail Affluent.
Sanlam said pressure on new business volumes persists as restrictions on the movement of people remain in place in some of markets.
It therefore expects growth in new business volumes to shrink towards the end of the year.
Its half-year operating profit, which it refers to as net operational earnings, fell by 39%, near the middle of its forecast range, as the coronavirus crisis weighed on performance. earnings per share, which strip out one-off items and are the main profit measure in South Africa, rose 10% to 188.5 cents, boosted mainly by the absence of a year-earlier 1.7 billion rand charge related to a black economic empowerment transaction.
Sanlam does not declare interim dividends.
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