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HSBC shoots for success with Nedbank acquisition

HSBC’s purchase of South Africa’s Nedbank will offer big advantages for both partners. HSBC will gain it first substantive presence in Africa – and not just South Africa – and Nedbank will draw on HSBC’s global links and know-how. Nick Kochan reports.

HSBC’S DECISION TO buy a controlling stake in South Africa’s Nedbank in mid-August, for $8 billion, was well timed. The World Cup had just finished, and it signalled, if nothing else, that business had returned to normal. The Johannesburg business community, glued to football on their television screens for the previous month, sat up and listened.

Their interest was grabbed by three facts. First, a new political prominence for banks in a country where politics is at the hub of so many economic decisions. Second, a new name on the high street and a new branding drive into the retail market. Finally, and least likely at the time of writing, the possibility of rejection of the bid, and the entry of Standard Chartered into the fray.

HSBC’s plans for its purchase of the country’s fourth-largest bank after Absa, Standard and First National, have attracted enormous interest. The new owner is expected to bring in fresh capital and know-how to beef it up. Competitors have lined up to give HSBC a welcome. Sizwe Nxasana, the chief executive of FirstRand, said: "We welcome a strong competitor." Absa’s head of retail, Louis von Zeuner, was also supportive.

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