Business

Sexwale's Batho Bonke sells $370m stake in Absa

Helen Nyambura-Mwaura

Tokyo Sexwale's Batho Bonke Capital has sold its stake in SA's biggest retail bank, exiting one of the post-apartheid era's highest profile BEE deals.

Batho Bonke Capital has sold its shares in Absa. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

The consortium of black investors, which includes Absa employees, took a 10% stake in the Absa Group in 2004 to help it meet government targets on black ownership.

On Wednesday it sold most of its remaining holding in Absa, said Yolanda Cuba, a director for the group.

"Batho Bonke is in the process of disposing its shares," she said, confirming an earlier report.

Absa is majority-owned by Britain's Barclays Plc.

Batho Bonke sold 24.6-million shares – a roughly 3.4% stake in Absa – at R132.50 each, according to one Batho Bonke adviser.

That represents a 4.3% discount to Absa's closing price on Tuesday, and values the transaction at around R3.26-billion.

It is the fourth-largest equity deal in Sub-Saharan Africa this year, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Merrill Lynch and RMB Morgan Stanley acted as joint bookrunners on the deal.

Batho Bonke, whose name means "All the People", held just under 4% in Absa before Wednesday's sale, according to Thomson Reuters data.

A remaining 0.4% of unsold shares are held by Batho Bonke members who are Absa employees, said the adviser, who declined to be identified.

Empowerment deals
South African companies have used "black empowerment" deals – loaning shares to black investors or selling stakes at a discount – to increase their black ownership and meet government targets to help those disadvantaged by the apartheid regime.

Some senior members of the ANC have become multi-millionaires through such deals. Batho Bonke's Sexwale – who has been seen as a potential ANC president contender – founded Mvelaphanda Group, an early black investment group.

The sale was done through a book build with 55 institutional investors, said the adviser. R1-billion of the proceeds will go to settle debt, with the remainder going to shareholders, the adviser said.

It was not immediately clear if Absa would need to do another black economic empowerment (BEE) deal following the exit of the Batho Bonke shareholders, although one analyst said it was probably unlikely.

"The way I understand it, it's a once-empowered-forever-empowered kind of scenario so I don't think they need to do another BEE deal because they have already done it," said the analyst, who declined to be identified.

Shares of Absa fell 2.8% to R134.60, although the analyst said the reaction was overblown, given that shares were being sold directly to institutional investors, not on the open market. – Reuters

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