No shortage of suitors for African business, Barclays says after decision to sell

The British bank has a presence in 12 countries on the continent with 12m customers and last week left the continent on edge with plan to scale down.

BARCLAYS Plc is already receiving strong interest in its African banking business a week after announcing its intention to sell, Chief Executive Officer Jes Staley said.

The firm would consider an offer for its entire 62% stake as it seeks to boost capital, Staley said in a Bloomberg Television interview with Erik Schatzker.

Staley announced his intention to sell down the firm’s stake in Barclays Africa Group Ltd. and focus on the UK and US markets in a strategy update last week.

“The idea of keeping some optionality in Africa is attractive, but for sure at some point there is a price where a strategic sale might make sense,” Staley said. “We have given ourselves time, two to three years, to get the sale done in a way that protects the franchise of Barclays in Africa, because it is a separate bank.”

Barclays needs to cut its stake to roughly less than 20% to be able to deconsolidate the business and escape punitive capital charges. Staley said last week that the business is very attractive, but that the capital rules treat the stake as if Barclays owns 100% and thus reduce profitability.

Former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond, who now runs private equity firm Atlas Mara Ltd., has been reported to be among those interested in some or all of the business. Staley said he doesn’t believe Diamond has the “financial capability” to buy the entire unit.

The British firm bought South African bank Absa in 2005 and three years ago the Johannesburg-based unit acquired its parent’s operations in eight African nations, giving Barclays a presence in 12 countries on the continent with 12 million customers.

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