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Barclays’s Absa Says Interested in Nigeria After African Deal

Absa Group Ltd., the Johannesburg-based lender acquiring most of parent company Barclays Plc’s African assets, said it’s interested in entering the Nigerian market as it boosts its presence across the continent.

The bank needs a competitive advantage before it can enter the country, Africa’s second-largest economy and biggest oil producer, Absa Chief Financial Officer David Hodnett said today in an interview in Johannesburg. The lender could take advantage of its experience in corporate banking, he said.

Absa plans to spend 1.25 billion rand ($127 million) by 2015 on refurbishing branches in Africa, Chief Executive Officer Maria Ramos told investors in Johannesburg today. The bank said in December it would buy the bulk of Barclays’s African assets in an all-share deal worth 18.3 billion rand.

The economy of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with more than 160 million people, is set to grow 7.2 percent this year, versus an average of 5.6 percent for the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Absa isn’t looking at any of the nationalized Nigerian lenders, Hodnett said separately today on a conference call.

The Asset Management Corp. of Nigeria, set up by the government to buy bad debts from banks, is seeking to sell the lenders by next year. They were nationalized after being unable to meet capital requirements following a 2008 to 2009 debt crisis triggered by loans given to stock market speculators.

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