If Barclays Africa Is For Sale, South Africa’s PIC Says It’s Buying

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Written by Dana Sanchez

If Barclays London sells part of its African assets, South Africa’s Public Investment Corporation (PIC) wants to increase its stake in Barclays Africa, the PIC CEO said, according to a report in BusinessdayLive.

PIC manages about 1.5-trillion rand ($60.65 billion US) in assets for the South African Government Employees Pension Fund.

A sell-down is seen as an opportunity for domestic South African investors to reclaim the banking asset from British control, BusinessDayLive reported.

There is no deal on the table, but if there was, the corporation “would be keen to participate and increase our position”, PIC CEO Daniel Matjila said in Davos.

It would be “an opportunity for us to reclaim what we sold,” he told BusinessDayLive. “It’s an opportunity for South Africans to take advantage and create a South African champion.”

PIC is the second-largest investor in Barclays Africa after Barclays. It has a 5.44 percent stake in Barclays Africa, valued at about 5 billion rand ($303.3 million US) at current market prices.

Rumors of a Barclays Africa sale are just that — rumors — Matjila told BusinessDayLive.

“I fortunately had a chance to chat to the local CEO (Barclays Africa CEO Maria Ramos),” Matjila said. “She said at this stage it’s all rumors.”

Barclays Africa Group declined to comment Friday.

Barclays has operated in parts of Africa for almost a century but the the devaluation of the South African rand against the British pound hit the group’s profits, according to an earlier AFKInsider report. The African unit’s return on equity was 9.3 percent in 2014 — below the bank’s target of 11 percent, FinancialTimes reported.

New Barclays CEO Jes Staley is unlikely to pull out of the continent, but Barclays could sell its retail banking operations in parts of Africa including South Africa, Kenya, Mauritius, Botswana and Zambia, while keeping some investment banking activities there, FinancialTimes reported.

Talk of a sell-down comes less than three years after Barclays increased its stake in Barclays Africa Group from 55 percent to 62.3 percent in an 18-billion-rand ($1.09 billion US) deal. Absa bought eight Barclays Africa operations to form the Barclays Africa Group In that transaction, BusinessDayLive reported.

So what exactly is Absa? It gets confusing. Absa Bank is a subsidiary of the Barclays Africa Group operating mostly in South Africa and Namibia. The U.K. bank owns 62 percent of Barclays Africa Group.

News broke in December that Barclays might sell down Barclays Africa after a report was published in the U.K.-based Financial Times.

A month earlier, Johannesburg-based Barclays Africa halted its Project Serengeti plan, which had the goal of rebranding Absa to reflect the colors of the London parent firm.

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“With regards to a rebrand, we have consistently said that we would consider a rebrand when the timing is right,” the company said, according to BusinessDayLive. “We have no current plans to rebrand our branches to Barclays from Absa.

“Absa is a strong brand and we will continue to refresh and update it in both our marketing and physical channels,” the company said.

 


About Dana Sanchez

Dana Sanchez was born in South Africa and is a U.S. citizen. After working in advertising, she went back to school and earned a master's degree in journalism from the University of South Florida. As a business writer, she won regional and national writing awards. As editor of a daily newspaper, she coordinated staff writers, freelancers and photographers in the fast-paced environment of daily news. Dana was an editor at Moguldom Media Group for four years, helping to build and manage a team of staff and freelance writers. She works now on Moguldom.com for Nubai Ventures. A long-distance hiker and cyclist, she writes about the business of technology.