Barclays Africa to strategise a pan-African future

Barclays Africa Group CEO Maria Ramos. (Pic: Lameez Omarjee, Fin24)
Barclays Africa Group CEO Maria Ramos. (Pic: Lameez Omarjee, Fin24)

Johannesburg – Barclays Africa now has an opportunity to reshape its destiny following the sale of a 33.7% stake owned by Barclays PLC, said chief executive Maria Ramos.

Ramos was speaking at a briefing at the bank’s headquarters in Johannesburg on Thursday where she unpacked the way forward for the group which is now a “standalone, pan-African” business.

“This is a defining moment for Barclays Africa [JSE:BGA]. We now have a significant opportunity to determine our own destiny and make our own decisions on what is right for a standalone African business. We could not be more excited,” said Ramos.

READ: ALERT: Barclays to now sell 33.7% of Absa parent unit

On Thursday morning, UK-based Barclays PLC confirmed that it had sold R37.71m worth of its shares, this is 286 million shares at R132 each. Further, 1.5% will be allocated to the development of a black empowerment scheme, taking the group’s shareholding to 15%.

This follows a sale of 12.2% of its stake in May 2016, where its shareholding was reduced to 50%. Bloomberg reported that Barclays first bought Absa in 2005 [JSE:ABSP], it's 60% holding grew to 62% in 2013 following a reshuffle exercise where Absa took over Barclays operations in eight African countries. 

The sale has created an opportunity for the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) to grow its shareholding by 7% to 14.9%, making it the second biggest shareholder in Barclays Africa.

“We now have a significantly more diverse shareholder base and increased local ownership,” said Ramos. Over 50% of the allocations of the bookbuild belongs to local investors. “We also have the right balance between local and international ownership and we have attracted more long-term investors,” added Ramos.

Barclays no longer majority shareholder

“[Barclays] PLC is no longer a controlling shareholder, but remains a shareholder and will support Barclays Africa throughout the sell-down,” she said. Barclays will contribute £765m (over R12bn) to pay for the costs of the separation.

Regarding the separation of systems, Ramos explained that Absa had operated as a standalone in South Africa and that systems had been shared and integrated primarily with the investment bank, Absa Capital and in operations across the continent. About £15m (R251m) will be allocated to paying the costs related to this separation, Ramos clarified.

“Barclays is a household name … it is not a name that will disappear overnight,” said Ramos. Barclays Africa’s marketing team is researching ways to position the brand with a strong African focus, she added.  

The bank will remain entrenched in the continent, said Ramos. “All of us here believe the ownership change represents a huge opportunity to accelerate our vision of becoming a pan-African bank with our destiny firmly in our own hands.”

ALSO READ: Barclays sale 'a historic moment' - Maria Ramos

Ramos explained that the opportunities in the continent outweighed the challenges and the bank was well poised to take advantage of the opportunities.

The decision by PLC would not trigger job losses, said Ramos. “The separation for PLC is one of those issues actually which absorbed a lot of people and resources.” She explained that “big workstreams” were put together to manage the separation and continue running the business.

Ramos added that financial inclusion would remain a focus of the bank.

Ramos’ future

Responding to a question about her future as chief executive of the bank, Ramos said she remained committed. “I have been at Barclays for eight years. My commitment to this organisation is deep and profound.”

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