Absa pushes for bigger business in all Africa

THE new chief executive of Absa Group's investment banking arm aims to increase revenue by 50 percent to 60percent in the next three years - as business in its core capital markets starts to pick up.

THE new chief executive of Absa Group's investment banking arm aims to increase revenue by 50 percent to 60percent in the next three years - as business in its core capital markets starts to pick up.

Chief executive Stephen van Coller, who took over as head of Absa Capital this month, said he would focus on boosting business on the continent, particularly in debt capital markets in sub-Saharan Africa where parent Barclays operates.

"Focus for me is trying to get the FX-platform sorted out.

There's still a big gap between us and Standard Bank in terms of just size across sub-Saharan Africa," Van Coller said yesterday.

"I would love to try and get another 50 to 60percent revenue growth in the next three years."

Van Coller, previously deputy chief executive and head of investment banking at Absa Capital, said he expected activity around mergers and acquisitions (M&A) to pick up towards the end of 2010 as the economy starts to recover from recession.

"I think the biggest problem at the moment is people trying to get their minds around valuation because visibility (looking) out three years is very murky at the moment.

"When that sort of settles, I think there's a lot waiting to happen," he said.

"There's very few new deals out there because the sellers don't want to sell because they think their business is worth more. And the buyers won't pay more because they don't have visibility... It's tough but it will come back, absolutely."

South Africa is grappling with its first recession since 1992 and M&A deals have slowed as liquidity dries up. However, van Coller said there remained some activity in the mining, telecoms and consumer goods sectors.

Van Coller said foreign demand for emerging market sovereign debt was on the rise, particularly in the west African markets of Nigeria and Ghana and in the east African countries of Kenya and Tanzania. - Reuters

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