Reorganisation takes shape: Absa sees slight improvement in profit measure as costs ease

By Vernon Wessels

(Bloomberg) – Absa Group Ltd. forecast that its return on equity, a measure of profit, will improve slightly this year, helped by the South African lender’s operations in the rest of the continent.

While costs will improve by the end of the year, expenses are still likely to grow faster than income, the Johannesburg-based bank said in a statement on Monday. Loan and deposit growth will improve, with its rest-of-Africa business outperforming its home market, as will its credit-loss ratio, while the company’s net interest margin “is likely to decline slightly this year,” the company said.

Absa, which last month rebranded from Barclays Africa Group Ltd. after its former parent reduced its controlling stake, is focusing on winning back market share in South Africa and doubling its share of revenue from its 12 other operations on the continent. The lender reported first-half adjusted earnings per share that rose 3 percent to R9.50.

Absa media statement

Absa Group Limited today reported good progress in positioning to deliver on the new corporate strategy it launched in March 2018. The group, previously known as Barclays Africa Group, reiterated its goal to double its share of banking revenues in Africa to 12%.

“An important milestone in positioning for delivery against our strategy was achieving full regulatory de-consolidation, which means that UK regulators no longer regard Absa and Barclays PLC as a single entity,” said Maria Ramos, Absa Group Chief Executive. “In practical terms, it means that we no longer operate under any policy frameworks set by Barclays PLC. For example we are now free to set our own risk appetite.”

Image supplied by Absa Group.

Absa Group announced a new operating model in April, empowering business unit leadership teams to have end-to-end accountability for delivery. Further reorganisation is now taking place at business unit level.

The reorganisation process started with retail and business banking SA (RBB SA), which accounts for more than half of Absa Group’s total income.

“In our retail and business banking unit in South Africa, we now have an operating model which has reduced management layers, enables faster decision making and brings the leadership team closer to customers and colleagues” said Ramos, adding that positive momentum seen in the latter half of last year has carried through into the first half of 2018. Notably, in the first half of the year, new home loans increased by 14% in the first half – against a context where market growth was 4%.

A further separation milestone was reached in July when the group name was changed from Barclays Africa Group to Absa Group and a refreshed brand was launched as an expression of the group’s new identity and its digital ambition. In our markets outside South Africa, subsidiaries will begin the change to Absa from mid-2019 – subject to securing all relevant approvals.

Absa has made progress in its aspiration to build and entrepreneurial, digitally-led bank.

“We have made it clear that our ambition is to be a digitally-led organisation, digitally capable and scalable” said Ramos.

  • In Kenya, Absa’s local subsidiary launched Timiza – an app-based personal loans platform – in March this year. Timiza’s customer base had grown to more than two million by 25 July.
  • Absa launched WhatsApp banking and Samsung Pay as new propositions for its South Africa retail business. Uptake particularly in WhatsApp banking has exceeded expectation with more than 10 000 customers registering for ChatBanking on WhatsApp within the first 20 days.

Looking ahead, Absa will continue to drive the growth momentum recorded in retail and business banking, and address opportunities in the wealth and investment management and insurance business unit, and in the corporate and investment banking portfolios.


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