I am rapidly becoming an African aficionado. Maybe Barclays’ Jenkins is on the right track in targeting Africa as a key region of growth for Barclays. A mole was at the recent South African mining conference Indaba in Cape Town and reports record attendance and a febrile atmosphere of deal-making.
"It was rather like a souk," mole mused, "with slightly suspect mining entrepreneurs laying out their wares and obsequious bankers waddling from one stall to the next."
I notice that the Nigerian stock exchange was up more than 50% in US dollar terms during 2012 and one of the leading Nigerian banks, Guaranty Trust Bank, is predicting 7.5% GDP growth for Nigeria this year and 15% to 20% credit growth in 2013. Indeed GT Bank’s own return on equity for the first nine months of 2012 was over 30%. Perhaps, if you pick your spots correctly, Africa is the new Brazil.
And talking of all things Brazilian, I saw that Jim O’Neill, chairman of Goldman Sachs’s asset management division, and the man who coined the acronym Bric, is leaving the US firm. I have interviewed Jim several times and have always enjoyed his company. He is remarkably down to earth as well as being very clever. I hope he will resurface in another important role soon. Part of me, though, fears that he might do the typical "dearly departed" Goldman trick of joining an under-the-radar hedge fund or private equity group.
Finally, of which UK bank chairman did my mole mouth: "Let’s face it, he wouldn’t know a bond from a premium bond?" And can it be true, as a mole insists, that Tom Montag, Bank of America’s co-chief operating officer, insists on signing off personally on all hires at analyst level and above in the investment bank? Talk about control freak. But could that attention to detail help explain BofA’s meteoric share price rise in the past seven months and why the stock is a top pick for many hedge fund managers?