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Africa economy: Barclay's decision to disinvest in Africa not political; Barclays Africa CEO

02 March 2016, 23:00

Johannesburg - British bank Barclays' decision to disinvest in Barclays Africa has nothing to do with the political situation in South Africa, Barclays Africa CEO Maria Ramos said on Tuesday.

Ramos said the withdrawal was triggered by the global regulatory factors.

Barclays on Tuesday announced its intention to sell down their 62.3 percent stake in Barclays Africa over 2-3 years.

According to Ramos, the current global environment makes it almost difficulty to spread wings to other countries and establish subsidiaries.

"(It has) nothing to do with any conspiracy and nothing to do with the economic environment whether it's in South Africa or anywhere across our continent. This decision has been driven by the regulatory environment and the regulatory bid," Ramose told a private Johannesburg-based radio station, Talk-radio 702.

"We are deeply committed to the communities in which we live and work and today, when we announced our financial results I also said we will invest 1.4 billion rand (about 89 million U.S. dollars) in education and skills development across Africa over the next three years," Ramos also said in a statement.

Also read: Barclays Pls. plans to sell down stake in Barclays Africa Group

"That commitment extends to the way we serve our customers. Nothing in today's announcements will make us deviate or change our course. We at Barclays Africa are neither exiting our operations in South Africa nor the rest of our African markets," she said.

The exit is one of the biggest withdrawals in South Africa since the 1980s. This is the second planned exit from Africa in 30 years, which will affect banks like Absa. In 2013, Barclays Africa was established as a leading African bank when 12 banks across the continent were brought together.

However, some experts blame South African President Jacob Zuma for the unceremoniously firing of Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene last December.

On Monday morning, Barclays Africa shares took a knock on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), losing as much as 6.8 percent.

Earlier on Tuesday, Absa Bank, Barclays Africa Group's South African subsidiary, said on Twitter, "Our future as Barclays Africa is bright and our ambition to be Africa's leading bank remains unchanged".

"You (Absa bank customers) will not be impacted in any way. Absa is here to stay. Our financial results show solid growth. We will continue serving you as always," the bank said.

Nic Borain, an adviser to BNP Paribas Securities South Africa, told Xinhua in telephone interview that "it is unfortunate that the country (South Africa) has experienced a significant withdrawal of capital out of the country,"

"The exit is an indication of a vote of no confidence in the country's sluggish economic growth," he added.

"The political and economic situation in the country does not attract any meaningful investor, hence the disinvestment by Barclays,"said Lumkile Mondi, a senior lecturer at the school of economic and business sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

"The volatility of the rand, (which dropped 25 percent against the dollar in 2015), has negatively impacted the value of Barclays' investment," Mondi said.

Barclays has exited Africa at a time when 80 percent of Barclays Africa Group Ltd.'s profits come from South Africa. But the volatility of the rand has lost 35 percent of its value against the dollar since the start of 2014.

Barclays CEO Jes Staley said on Tuesday that he was simplifying the structure of the bank, focusing on its core UK and U.S. business and building a Trans-Atlantic bank.

"It seems that Barclays was divesting of non-core assets already, but the decision to exit Africa may have been accelerated after that event as well as the risks of a ratings downgrade of South Africa," he said.

Meanwhile, Chairman of Barclays Africa Group Limited (BAGL), Wendy Lucas-Bull said she was stepping down from the Barclays Plc and Barclays Bank Plc boards with immediate effect.

BAGL is the majority (in some cases sole) shareholder of the operations in South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Ghana, Zambia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Uganda and Tanzania.


- Xinhua


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