Barclays '˜evaluates' African business amid sale speculation

Banking giant Barclays today said its African business is being 'evaluated' amid mounting speculation it is pulling out of the region.

Barclays is looking at 'strategic options' for its African business. Picture: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
Barclays is looking at 'strategic options' for its African business. Picture: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

The group is looking into its “strategic options” for Barclays Africa Group Limited (BAGL) in response to a report stating it plans to quit the continent.

It has been reported that the lender may leave the region in order to focus on its key UK and US markets, with a sub-committee already in place to investigate how and when to sell its African arm.

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Barclays said it will give a full update to the market when it reveals its annual results tomorrow.

But BAGL group chief executive Maria Ramos distanced the operation from the rumours, stating: “With an independent board and a separate listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange we are deeply rooted in Africa and remain firmly in control of our future.”

She added: “We continue to be optimistic about our prospects in Africa, where we have a strong franchise with assets of over one trillion rand (£44.6 billion). We are deeply committed to the success of our continent.”

BAGL added: “Any announcement relating to Barclays PLC’s shareholding in BAGL does not impact the shareholding and ownership of these operations.”

The business – which includes the South African branch network Absa – is 62.3 per cent owned by Barclays. It was created in 2013 when 12 banks across the continent were brought together.

It has 12 million customers across 12 countries including South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Ghana, Zambia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Uganda and Tanzania.

Barclays is expected to book hefty provisions for mis-selling charges when it announces its full-year results.

The lender looks set to join RBS, Santander and Lloyds by revealing a further hit for payment protection insurance (PPI) mis-selling, with Investec analysts pencilling in a £1.2bn charge for the fourth quarter.

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Recently appointed boss Jes Staley hinted in January that Barclays’ investment banking income may fall by 10 per cent to £1.5bn in the fourth quarter, as he expects its full-year income to be “broadly flat” compared with the prior year.

Barclays recently announced it would axe around 1,200 investment banking jobs under plans to pull out of Russia and shut offices across a raft of countries in the Asia Pacific region. These job losses will come on top of 7,000 cuts made since 2014.

It was thought that stock market turmoil and a commodity price rout played a part in the decision to further scale back its investment banking footprint.