THE fight over Barclays Bank Zimbabwe escalated this week after the banking sector’s union threw in its weight behind new majority shareholders amid plans to block the bid.
Barclays Bank Plc last year announced it was disposing of its African assets, including in Zimbabwe, to focus on British and American markets.
Barclays Zimbabwe, alongside the Egyptian business, was not part of the 2013 deal that saw Barclays Africa, formerly Absa, acquire eight African operations from its parent company due to high local political risk.
In a new twist to unfolding events, the Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers’ Union, which represents over 500 Barclays Zimbabwe employees, who initially backed a management buyout of the bank, this week made a U-turn when it announced that it opposed the bid.
Before Malawi’s First Merchant Bank (FMB) announced that it had taken over the bank, there were two competing bids for Barclays Zimbabwe on the table: one from FMB and the other a management buyout led by bank managing director George Guvamatanga under the banner of Msasa Capital.
This week the National Social Security indicated that it was ready to support the management buyout and this rekindled a bidding war for the prominent bank.
“The said threat (by those opposing FMB) in our view appears to be attempts by a self-serving politically connected cabal which is attempting to scuttle the disposal of Barclays Bank of Zimbabwe.
“This clique, which has demonstrated that it has a bottomless pocket of resources to oil certain sections of the media and the system has even roped in political actors as evidenced by recent utterances in Marondera,” Zibawu acting secretary general Shepherd Ngandu said in a statement.
“Interestingly, the Nssa board chairperson appears to be at the fore front of championing purported indigenisation backing local Barclays management takeover as reported the said article.
“This is despite the meeting which was held with Nssa executives in September 2016 at which Barclays Bank non-managerial employees sought for support in a bid for employee takeover. The bid by the employees sought to benefit the majority of workers who contribute to Nssa.
“The Nssa executives led by the general manager Ms (Elizabeth) Chitiga, categorically refused to support the transaction citing its existing significant shareholding in various local banks and its 100%-owned National Building Society and purported lack of funds to support the proposal.
“We are surprised that for an organisation that categorically stated that it has no appetite for financing a financial sector investment is suddenly interested in supporting a management takeover.
Further it has all of a sudden mobilised the necessary resources contrary to its position just eight months ago. Our understanding of empowerment is one that is broad based and not one that uses poor workers money to enrich a few thereby perpetuating inequalities.”
Msasa Capital, a private investment and advisory firm fronted by ex-Investec executive Richard Honey and Border Timbers shareholder Heinrich von Pezold, was tasked by senior Barclays Zimbabwe management to draft the takeover proposal to Barclays Plc.