Dubai’s Abraaj Is Interested in Buying Barclays Africa Unit

  • Private equity firm said to have formed bidding group in 2016
  • Barclays to reduce stake in African business over coming years

Abraaj Group, the private-equity firm that invests across emerging markets, is interested in buying a stake in Barclays Plc’s South African business, Chief Executive Officer Arif Naqvi said.

“It’s a very fine bank run by a very fine management team, and if the opportunity were to re-present itself, we would certainly be one of those that would be at the table,” Naqvi said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday. The two companies aren’t currently in talks, he said.

Arif Naqvi at Davos, Jan. 17.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Naqvi’s comments may signal renewed interest in bidding for a chunk of Barclays’ remaining 50.1 percent stake in the unit after the London-based bank said last March that it plans to sell down its 62 percent holding over two to three years. Abraaj and a group of investors had previously planned to bid for a minority stake in Barclays Africa Group Ltd., people with knowledge of the discussions said last year, though those talks later faltered.

Other investor groups have also expressed interest in building a stake in the business. Public Investment Corp., the South African administrator of the bulk of the government’s pension-fund money,
was looking to form a group made up of black shareholders to buy a stake, while ex-Barclays CEO Bob Diamond had also publicly expressed interest.

The South African Reserve Bank had cautioned potential investors that it wanted owners of the country’s banks to have stability, deep pockets and long-term plans, saying in May it would look negatively on a private-equity bid.

Capital Position

Barclays, looking for ways to bolster its capital position, sold the first slice of its controlling stake in Barclays Africa Group Ltd. in May as part of a plan to cut its holding to 20 percent or less. The bank sold 103.6 million shares for the equivalent of about $880 million.

A spokesman for Barclays declined to comment.

Barclays Africa dropped 0.6 percent to 168.12 rand as of 3:34 p.m. in Johannesburg.

Naqvi also said that Abraaj is raising an investment fund this year that will have a global focus as the company seeks opportunities in defensive industries such as health care and education. The firm has “a group of investors who have been supportive of us all the way through the last few years,” he said.

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