Absa set to tackle unsecured lending

DIVERSIFYING: A foray into 'inorganic growth' was announced by Absa's CEO, Steve Booysens, who intends branching out into microlending. © Unknown.
DIVERSIFYING: A foray into 'inorganic growth' was announced by Absa's CEO, Steve Booysens, who intends branching out into microlending. © Unknown.

Richard Stovin-Bradford

Richard Stovin-Bradford

ABSA is mulling over small acquisitions in the unsecured lending arena, in a strategy shift that will reawaken memories of its fateful acquisition of Unifer, the microlender that went belly-up earlier this decade.

The unexpected mention of "inorganic" growth at yesterday's full-year results presentation is part of chief executive Steve Booysen's plan to diversify the retail earnings mix of the country's largest consumer bank away from its current secured lending bias of 88%.

"We want to get to 25% unsecured lending and this may call for some inorganic action," Booysen said, reporting an 18,6% increase in headline earnings a share to 1402c.

But finance director Jacques Schindehütte said: "There's not much scope for substantial acquisitions," noting that Absa group had R2 billion of surplus capital and the main banking unit R500 million.

The talk of small acquisitions came as Booysen said Absa's planned purchase of parent company Barclays' sub-Saharan Africa businesses had been canned.

Without mentioning figures, he said: "Because of the price of Barclay's Africa portfolio, it's very unlikely that a deal will take place."

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