Falcon Private Bank, a Swiss boutique wealth management company, has said that it is seeking to develop into Africa and will consider any opportunities stemming from the forecast sale of Barclay’s African units.
The Switzerland based bank is controlled by the International Petroleum Investment Company, an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund.
Falcon, which already manages $ 18 billion of assets, had been strategizing for its approach in expanding in Africa, even forming a small team of bankers dedicated for that purpose. They had been interested in certain African countries and want to focus on opportunities.
Barclays had announced that it wants to reduce its 62 per cent stake in Barclays Africa, which is the third largest lender in South Africa and also holds offices in Nigeria. The asset is co-owned by the local company Absa.
Barclays is looking to retain a 20% stake and is foreseeing that the sale may take some time and wants to give chance to many interested parties. South African regulators also want to ensure that the acquirer would be able to provide long term stability.
Barclays reasons that it is selling to curtail the high capital requirement needed to fund and grow the business. Barclays Africa is attempting to boost capital ratio by not declaring dividend for two years and shifting investments to non-core businesses.
Falcon’s global head of private banking, Erich Pfister, confirmed that they are watching the moves of Barclays, but is not really keen on acquiring the asset as a whole. Instead, it would like to cherry pick on portions that fit within its own strategic framework.
Even with recent controversies linking it to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Falcon appears to be unfazed. Falcon Chief Executive Officer Eduardo Leemann stated that they are very cooperative and unaffected by the investigation.
It is optimistic in dabbling with Barclays especially as the chief executive of its London private wealth business, Simon Gaston, is very familiar with the operations of Barclays, having been the chief executive of Barclays’ wealth and investment management unit.
This is not the first time that Falcon showed interest in acquiring assets from international players slowly pulling out of a region. It had also wanted to buy the private bank Coutts International, which used to be the Middle Eastern asset of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Falcon was not successful in acquiring that, losing out to Switzerland’s Union Bancaire Privee, which acquired the bank in whole.