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FirstRand pushes into Asia

Like Standard Bank, its better-known rival, South Africa’s FirstRand has seen the advantages of links with the burgeoning Asian markets, notably through a tie-up with Chinese bank CCB and a direct presence in India. Nick Kochan reports.

SOUTH AFRICA IS Asia’s gateway to Africa, and as Asia, especially China and India, make a play for African commodities and for African consumers, its banks have sought to link up with South African banks. The best known of these links is between ICBC and South Africa’s Standard Bank, where the Chinese player has a 20% stake. But of equal significance – although less well known – is the link between China Construction Bank and FirstRand.

FirstRand is not only one of South Africa’s largest banking institutions, it is also one of its most active internationally. The bank has built relationships with Chinese and Indian partners, with a view to leveraging off South Africa’s economic and political position. South Africa has made an active play for a position in the Chinese economy, most recently through a high-powered delegation in August to Beijing, led by South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma.

FirstRand uses its group of brands – which include the high street bank First National Bank; Rand Merchant Bank, the investment banking arm; and Wesbank, a credit institution – to target banks and entrepreneurs from emerging markets breaking into Africa. They likewise help African companies spread their wings to Asia.

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