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Barclays Africa challenges findings on apartheid-era bailout

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Barclays Africa launched a court challenge on Thursday to the anti-graft watchdog’s findings that the lender’s South African unit unduly benefited from an apartheid-era bailout.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhebane said last month her investigation had found the apartheid government and central bank breached the constitution by supplying a bank later acquired by Absa, the retail banking unit of Barclays Africa, with a series of bailouts from 1986 to 1995.

The constitutionally mandated anti-corruption agency said Absa must repay 1.1 billion rand ($83 million) to the state.

“In reaching her finding that Absa benefited from the South African Reserve Bank financial support, the Public Protector appears to have impermissibly ignored facts and disregarded evidence provided to her,” Absa said.

The bank said in court filings it had not benefited from the central bank bailout of Bankorp because the price it paid for it took into account the central bank’s financial assistance.

($1 = 13.2500 rand)


(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng, editing by David Evans)


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S.Africa watchdog says Barclays Africa must repay $86.44 mln over bailouts

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PRETORIA (Reuters) – Barclays Africa Group unduly benefited from apartheid-era bailouts and must repay 1.125 billion rand ($86.44 million), South Africa’s anti-graft watchdog said on Monday, though the bank denied any wrongdoing.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane in January reopened a probe of Absa, a unit of Barclays Africa, following a wider report published last November by her predecessor.

She said on Monday that the probe had found that the apartheid government breached the constitution by supplying Bankorp, which was acquired by Absa in 1992, with a series of bailouts from 1985 to 1995.

Absa said in a statement it had not received a copy of the report and denied any wrongdoing, saying it “met all its obligations in respect of the loan provided by the South African Reserve Bank by October 1995.”

“Once we have read it we will consider our legal options including seeking a High Court review. It is our firm position that there is no obligation to pay anything to the South African government,” Absa said.

Shares in Barclays Africa fell 2.61 percent to 142.68 rand by 1253 GMT.

($1 = 12.7941 rand)


(Reporting by Dinky Mkhize in Pretoria and Nqobile Dludla in Johannesburg; Editing by James Macharia)


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British bank Barclays will leave Africa

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barclays africa

South African economic problems and corruption risks on the continent prompt decision to sell majority stake in Barclays Africa.

South Africa’s economic slow down and plummeting currency were key factors in Barclays decision to exit banking on the continent, ending a presence dating back nearly 100 years.

Barclays, one of Britain’s largest banks, announced it would sell its stake of 62.3 percent in Barclays Africa as part of a larger strategy of refocusing on operations in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Barclays has also cut back operations in Asia, Brazil, Europe and Russia.

Banks in 14 countries

Barclays Africa Group, Limited, one of the largest banks on the continent, is worth about $4.9 billion. It has 45,000 employees and 1,267 branches.

It operates in 14 countries: Botswana, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as South Africa, where the company owns and operates the bank network, Absa.

The African bank has been profitable, but the steep fall of the rand last year cut return on equity to 9 percent, below a target of 11 percent.

Barclays believes Africa is a growth area, according to those familiar with the bank’s review of its options. However, the South African issues along with higher risk of corruption prompted its decision to sell its stake.

Leadership seeks to refocus

 Barclays CEO Jes Staley

Barclays CEO Jes Staley

The move comes under the leadership of Barclays CEO Jes Staley, who took over in October 2015, the latest in a succession of chief executives who have sought to improve the bank’s outlook following the financial crisis.

The decision is a major turnaround from just a year ago, when Barclays Africa CEO Maria Ramos promised that the bank would rank among the top three in revenue in its five largest markets – South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Ghana and Zambia by 2016. Barclays Africa at that time was in the top three in only two of its markets – South Africa and Botswana.

Ramos also said the bank was on target to produce a return on equity of 18-20 percent.

Bank could be a tough sell

It was not immediately clear who potential buyers might be although it is unlikely Barclays would put its shares on the market if it didn’t expect suitors.

Despite the relative financial health of the bank, it may be a tough sell, according to analysts.

Garth Mackenzie of Trader’s Corner, said while Barclays Africa was a well-governed asset with a good dividend yield, concerns about risk “seem to overshadow that.”

South African turmoil undermines rand

The rand hit an all-time low in late 2015 after African President Jacob Zuma sparked protests with the ouster of a respected finance minister with an unknown who was then quickly replaced amid political and financial turmoil.

The value of the South African currency fell 40 percent in 2015. The rand has begun to recover but is still down by about 25 percent. Meanwhile, South Africa reported economic growth of only 0.06 percent in the final quarter of 2015.

Dividends cut

Barclays also announced it would cut shareholder dividends in half for the next two years, as the bank continues to struggle to recover from the financial crisis. The announcement prompted a reduction of eight percent in the value of its shares.

Staley, the CEO, said that the bank restructuring was coming to an end. “We are acutely aware of shareholders being tired” that it has taken so long to restructure the company.

Barclays has assured investors that their funds are safe; only share certificates will change hands in any sale. However, Barclays decision to leave Africa raises the question of whether other companies will also shift their focus to markets they perceive to be safer in America and Europe.

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South Africa’s Barclays Africa keeps credit taps open for drought-hit farmers

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Barclays Africa will keep lending taps open for South African farmers despite the worst drought in decades as growers can use high crop prices to offset lower output, the head of the lender’s agribusiness said on Wednesday.

The Johannesburg-listed bank, which funds farmers, is not concerned as yet despite the severity of the drought, Ernst Janovsky told reporters in Pretoria, adding that less than 0.2 percent of growers are defaulting on loans.

“There is still enough money around to survive the drought. We haven’t closed any taps. There is no real problem up to now,” he said.

While the weather slashed output. farmers can sell their crops at a higher price, Janovsky said, but warned that if substantial rains do not fall by March next year there could be a “serious problem”.

A combination of El Nino and drought conditions have hit production of soft commodities from sugar to maize in Africa’s most advanced economy, even forcing farmers to cull cattle due to lack of grazing grass.

Dry conditions last year cut South Africa’s staple maize crop by a third and the prospect of another drought pushed prices in July for white maize, the staple crop for the region,

to near record highs.

The South African Weather Service said last month that an El Nino weather system, which was already forecast to bring drought conditions for much of the southern hemisphere’s summer, now looks like it will extend into autumn next year.


(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Editing by Adrian Croft, Reuters)

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