Thursday, September 16, 2010

Scrambled in Africa - The Continent's Banking Boom

A piece from The Economist:

"When ICBC, the world’s biggest bank by value, paid $5.5 billion for a 20% stake in Standard Bank in 2007, bankers around the world sat up and took notice. The deal with South Africa’s largest lender suggested Africa was no longer a curiosity but a potentially big source of profits. Some elements of the continent’s vaunted financial blooming have since wilted: Nigeria’s banks, which had briefly seduced Western investors, suffered a crisis (see article). But the main business logic—that Africa’s growing trade links with other emerging markets have raised its strategic importance in banking—is intact.

“Now everyone’s looking at Africa,” says Jacko Maree, Standard Bank’s boss. In January Bank of China, the country’s most international outfit, entered into a pact with Ecobank, which operates in 31 African countries. Chinese staff will drum up business from local branches. In August Brazil’s Bradesco and state-controlled Banco do Brasil announced a new African holding company with Banco Espirito Santo (BES), a Portuguese firm active in Angola. And HSBC is in talks to buy Nedbank, a South African bank. William Mills, who runs Citigroup in Africa, Europe and the Middle East, says the continent is becoming “more and more competitive”.

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