Barclays Africa plans to reclaim its African identity by changing its name back to Absa across all its operations on the continent saying its goal is “to become a banking group which Africa can be proud of – rooted in Africa and its heritage.”
Following what the Group describes as a “successful sell-down by Barclays PLC of its majority stake”, Chief Executive Officer Maria Ramos used the Barclays Africa Group Limited (BAGL) announcement of its new corporate strategy, to reveal that the Group will be rebranding.
Pending shareholder and regulatory approval, likely during the Groups’s AGM in May, it will go back to trading as Absa across all its Barclays operations in Africa, going back to its original name before the Barclays “takeover” in 2005. The news comes after two years of “divorce talks” following Barclays’ decision to pull out of Africa back in 2016 a move which our sister-publication African Banker has analysed in detail before.
In a statement announcing the new corporate identity on 1 March, Ramos explains that the Group undertook extensive research internally and externally, conferring with 130,000 with employees and stakeholders about the brand and strategy of the Group.
“We spoke to more than 130,000 customers and clients on the name change…The sell-down gave us the opportunity to roll out a brand that reflects our identity in Africa and to unite our operations in 10 countries behind one name…We will be Absa, not as you know it, but relaunched, re-presented and with an identity fit for the new and forward-looking business we are creating. It’s Absa that reflects African culture,”
Barclays Africa operates in 12 African countries. The rebrand comes after Barclays decided in 2016 to divest its African operations after 11 years on the continent. The London bank’s stake has been reduced from a majority stake to 14.9%. It is set to contribute £765m ($1.05bn) to fund investments required for it to separate from the group.
We will be Absa, not as you know it, but relaunched, re-presented and with an identity fit for the new and forward-looking business we are creating. It’s Absa that reflects African culture.
The news comes as Barclays Africa reported group earnings rose 4% year-on-year to R15bn ($1.3bn) in 2017. The bank aims to expand its operations to capture at least 12% of Africa’s banking market share.
“Our overriding goal is to become a banking group of which Africa can be proud, a forward-looking African business that recognises our African heritage, rooted in Africa, with global reach. We have a clear and undiluted ambition to double our market share of African banking revenues to 12%.” It is a bold plan for growth,” says Ramos
History, then and now
Amalgamated Banks of South Africa Limited (Absa) was formed in 1991 through the merger of UBS Holdings, the Allied and Volkskas Groups.
The following year Absa broadened its asset base by acquiring full shareholding of the Bankorp Group – which included TrustBank, Senbank and Bankfin. Five years later in 1997 Amalgamated Banks of South Africa Limited changed its name to Absa Group Limited and the United, Volkskas, Allied and TrustBank brands were later in 1998, consolidated into a single brand with Absa adopting a new corporate identity.
It was in 2005 that the UK’s Barclays Bank entered a into a relationship with the South African bank purchasing a 56.4% stake in Absa. According to Barclays statement at that time, this was “largest investment outside the UK and the largest ever direct foreign investment in South Africa.”
By July 2013, Barclays Bank PLC shares in Absa jumped to 62.3%, when it acquired the entire issued share capital of Barclays Africa Limited and issued 129,540,636 Consideration Shares to Barclays Africa Group Holdings Limited – a wholly owned subsidiary of Barclays.
A month later Absa Group Limited changed its name to Barclays Africa Group Limited.
On 1st March 2016 – as reported in depth in African Banker – Barclays PLC head Jes Staley officially announced that the bank planned to exit its African operations in the next two to three years to focus on business in the US and the UK.
On the same day, Barclays PLC’s share price fell 8.72%.
In July 2013, Barclays Bank PLC shares in Absa jumped to 62.3%, when it acquired the entire issued share capital of Barclays Africa Limited. A month later Absa Group Limited changed its name to Barclays Africa Group Limited.
The announcement was accompanied by a burst of media coverage implying that Barclays longstanding relationship with the continent was over.
This has now come to be, and Ramos explains the rational behind the “divorce” even further:
“We are re-setting our business with a bold, new growth strategy that leverages our existing footprint and market insights. The new identity is further evidence of the scale of the transformation and change in our business – a new brand for a new banking group.”
Additional reporting – Taku Dzimwasha