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Barclays Africa unit moves to allay fears

Published on 01/03/2016

Barclays Africa Group Limited (BAGL) on Tuesday said it was committed to the continent after an earlier announcement by its British parent to gradually reduce its majority stake in the unit.

“Our destiny is Africa,” said Maria Ramos, BAGL chief executive, at a press conference in Johannesburg.

“We have invested massively across the continent in the last three years and will continue to do so.”

Barclays announced early Tuesday its intention to sell down its 62.3-percent interest in the African unit, revealing annual losses after tax of £394 million ($549 million, 505 million euros) for the bank as a whole.

The 2015 net loss — against the £174 million posted a year earlier — was largely the result of money set aside to compensate customers mis-sold a controversial insurance product, or PPI.

But Ramos said Barclays Africa’s strategy would not be changing “just because our shareholders are changing”.

“Nothing in today’s announcements will make us deviate or change our course. We are not exiting our operations in any of our African markets.”

Established in 2013, BAGL now has 11 banks across 12 countries.

Ramos stressed it was not financially reliant on Barclays, with an independent board and a separate listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

“We will now actively engage Barclays and they will begin engaging with who will be out there as buyers. I’m sure what we have is a phenomenal institution,” she said.

Barclays is facing major changes under new chief executive Jes Staley, an American who began his role in December.

Staley has been tasked with restoring the bank’s battered reputation caused by a series of scandals including the rigging of foreign exchange and Libor interest rate markets.