HARARE, February 29 (The Source) – Barclays Bank Plc is set to pull out of Zimbabwe as part of an Africa-wide exit to focus on its core British and American markets, the Financial Times has reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.
Barclays Plc’s new chief executive Jes Staley, who was appointed three months ago, has led a review of the banking group’s Africa operations and reached a decision to divest from the continent with many sub-Saharan economies in turmoil.
Staley is expected to lay down the plans and the group’s shift to focus on high performing units at Barclays Plc’s 2015 results presentation on Tuesday.
Barclays’s assets in Africa include a 62.3 percent in Barclays Africa (formerly ABSA), which has operations in 11 African countries as well as direct subsidiaries in Zimbabwe and Egypt. A bid by Barclays Plc to sell the Zimbabwean and Egyptian banks to Barclays Africa failed last year after the parties could not agree on price.
The Zimbabwean and Egyptian banks are now most likely to be sold as part of the new strategy, the FT reported on Friday.
Barclays’ exit from Zimbabwe, where it has operated since 1912, making it the second oldest bank in the country after fellow British bank Standard Chartered.
Barclays Plc owns 68 percent of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed Barclays Bank Zimbabwe, which employs 713 workers and operates from 28 branches nationwide, according to Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe data.
Barclays Zimbabwe’s assets stood at $311 million at half-year 2015, while net profit was $1.3 million in the period.
It remains to be seen whether Barclays Africa, which on Monday issued a statement reaffirming its commitment to Africa, will revive plans to acquire the Zimbabwean and Egyptian banks after Barclays Plc’s exit. Talks between Barclays Africa and Barclays plc over the sale of the two assets broke down in December last year.
The two operations were excluded from a 2013 deal that saw Barclays Africa, formerly ABSA, acquire eight African operations from its parent company because of political uncertainty, although it already manages their operations.
Barclays Africa chief executive Maria Ramos said at the time that Egyptian banks and insurers in particular were highly prized and expensive.
Barclays’ exit from Africa comes at a time when its former chief executive Bob Diamond has made a big play for the continent, leading his Atlas Mara through a string of acquisitions of African banking assets.