Business

Standard Bank sees rapid branch growth in Angola

Shrikesh Laxmidas

The head of Standard Bank's Angolan unit is targeting explosive growth in the country by quadrupling its branch network there by the end of the year.

Standard Bank plans to as much as quadruple its branch network in Angola by the end of this year, as it targets explosive growth in the oil-rich nation, the head of its Angolan unit said on Wednesday.

Pedro Pinto Coelho also told Reuters in an interview that Africa’s biggest bank will not rule out an acquisition in Angola, where it is aiming for up to 70 branches in as little as three years.

“We have six branches at the moment and believe we can reach 20 to 25 branches by the end of the year,” he said.

“The idea is for us to have 60 to 70 branches in three to five years.”

While plenty of major international banks are targeting Angola, which is expected to post double-digit GDP growth this year, Standard aims to use its Africa presence to win business, Coelho said.

Differentiation
Standard Bank—which operates in 17 African countries—in 2009 was granted a banking licence in Angola, where the presence of 21 other banks means it faces plenty of competition.

“The reality is that we are the 22nd bank to open doors here. Our international presence already differentiates us as does our strong asset base and solidity,” he said.

The top five banks in Angola—including state-owned Banco Africano de Investimentos and units of Portugal’s BPI, and BES—control about 80% of the market.

Studies show that only 13% of Angolans hold bank accounts and analysts say banks must increase their lending to help companies as the country tries to diversify the economy.

“At the moment the market is still growing at a speed which allow us to post rapid organic growth,” Pinto Coelho said.

But he added that “in any dynamic market, such as the one in Angola, any player with ambitions to grow can never rule out the route of acquisition”.

Retail services
In Angola Standard Bank offers retail services for individuals and small businesses, but the main focus is on corporate investment banking for growth sectors such as oil, infrastructure and food production and distribution.

Standard, which is 20% owned by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, last year scaled back its focus from emerging markets to concentrate on Africa.

On Tuesday it said it would sell most its stake in Turkish venture Standard Unlu for an undisclosed amount, its latest move to divest from non-core operations.

Deputy CEO Ben Kruger told Reuters last month the bank expects to spend up to $300-million this year on expanding in four sub-Saharan markets including Angola.

Faced with fewer prospects for growth in their crowded home market, South Africa’s major lenders are increasingly looking to countries such as Angola and Nigeria.

South African rival FirstRand said last year it is eyeing Angola for a possible acquisition.—Reuters

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