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RBZ Seeks to Calm Nerves As Barclays Bank PLC Plans to Dispose Africa Stake

  • Blessing  Zulu

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) released a statement Wednesday seeking to reassure depositors that the banking sector is not facing a crisis.

This follows an announcement by the British multinational banking giant, Barclays Plc that it plans to exit its Zimbabwean operations saying they do not fit into its future plans.

Barclays Plc also announced this week that it intends to sell its 62,3 percent stake in Barclays Africa Group Limited, which has operations in 12 African countries including Zimbabwe.

A statement from central bank chief John Mangudya read in part, “The RBZ would like to assure stakeholders that, at this stage, Barclays Plc strategy does not impact on the status of Barclays Bank of Zimbabwe Limited on its everyday operations.’’

This is not the first time Barclays PLC has attempted to cut Harare loose. 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 the final price.

Chief economist Prosper Chitambara of the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe told VOA Studio 7 that Mangudya's statement is not surprising.

“It’s not an unusual step, one of the major roles of the central bank in any country is to ensure that there is financial sector stability and when a situation arises, like it has arisen in Zimbabwe where there are negative sentiments concerning one financial institution which could potentially trigger a bank run on that financial institution. It becomes incumbent on the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to kind of settle the nerves of the depositors and investors, both local and international.”

Barclays Africa Group Ltd said on Monday that any announcement by its London-listed parent company Barclays Plc would not impact the shareholding and ownership of operations in individual African countries. In Africa the bank has 12 million customers in 12 countries. Barclays Plc holds 68 percent of Barclays Bank Zimbabwe, a publicly quoted company with the investing public holding 32.04 percent shares.

Zimbabwe Barclays Bank managing director, George Guvamatanga, told stakeholders Tuesday that even though there was intention to sell, the bank was still part of the Barclays Plc family and remained committed to serving its customers.

The bank posted higher than expected profits after tax of US$3.9 million for the year ending December 31st , 2015 while total income at US$4.8 million was 25% up compared to 2014.

Bank chief finance officer, Sam Matsekete, said the bank had US$29 million in Afreximbank’s guaranteed securities of its $30,9 million in investment securities.

BARCLAYS PLC RESTRUCTURES

According to Associated Press, Barclays saw its shares slide Tuesday after the bank revealed plans to split itself into two, simplify its operations and cut its dividend amid weaker earnings. The stock closed 8.11% lower at 158.10 pence on the London Stock Exchange, recovering slightly from a wider loss earlier in the session after the bank issued the earnings report.

Barclays' U.S. shares closed down 5.83% at $8.89 in Tuesday trading. For fiscal 2015, profit before tax declined 8 percent to 2.07 billion pounds from last year's 2.26 billion pounds, after absorbing net losses on adjusting items.

New CEO Jes Staley says Barclays PLC "is fundamentally on the right path, and is, at its core, a very good business."

Staley was brought in after former CEO Antony Jenkins was ousted following a poor performance by the bank. "As part of the simplification of the group, we have decided, subject to required shareholder and regulatory approval, to reduce our interest in Barclays Africa to a non-controlling, non-consolidated position over the next two to three years", Barclays PLC Chief Executive Officer, Jes Staley, said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, some banks in Zimbabwe are struggling to provide cash and are limiting amounts to individuals and companies, which the central bank blamed on the financial institutions underestimating demand and failing to improve cash distribution to branches.

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