“Our personal loan book has remained virtually flat over the past year and our market share in personal loans has dropped from around 30 percent to below 10 percent,” David Hodnett, chief financial officer of Johannesburg-based Absa, said in an e-mailed response to questions yesterday. “Our average loan size has been decreasing.”
South African consumers are finding it harder to repay loans as unemployment rose in the first quarter and higher electricity and fuel prices boost inflation. Absa has focused on existing customers, said Hodnett, after setting aside more money for bad loans last year as credit impairments increased.
“As a bank that has a significant share of the retail consumer market, we will have exposure if a deteriorating economic environment impacts the South African consumer,” Hodnett said.
African Bank Investments Ltd. (ABL), South Africa’s biggest provider of unsecured loans, cut its dividend 71 percent on May 20 after saying bad debts rose more than expected. FirstRand Ltd. (FSR)’s retail unit and Nedbank Group Ltd. (NED) have said they are exercising caution in an environment, which may become even harder for consumers should interest rates go up.
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