South Africa’s Standard Bank is trying to convince the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) to buy its 40% stake in their London-based joint venture, CEO Sim Tshabalala said on Friday.
Standard Bank has been trying to get out of ICBC Standard Bank (ICBCS), a relic of its failed bid to become a global emerging markets lender, for some time, but been restricted by the terms of its agreement with ICBC, which owns the other 60%.
Standard Bank could not exercise an option to sell a 20% stake back to ICBC until the Chinese bank exercised its own option to buy the other 20% from Standard Bank. But ICBC’s option has now expired, Tshabalala said during Standard Bank’s annual results presentation.
“[Discussions] have commenced to try and convince them to acquire the asset from us,” he said, adding it was not possible to say when those might conclude.
Losses at ICBCS have dragged on Standard Bank’s earnings in recent years, and the venture now faces risks related to exposure to entities that are both directly and indirectly impacted by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Standard Bank said ICBCS could not yet assess the impact on its 2022 results.
Standard Bank warned that the war could also impact financial markets, trade, transport logistics, food and commodity prices on the African continent, threatening the recovery from Covid-19.
The bank itself has some “limited direct exposure” to Russia and Ukraine and was actively ensuring it complied with all local and international laws, it added.
It reported a 57% jump in 2021 headline earnings per share – the main profit measure in South Africa – to 1,573 cents. South Africa’s top banks have enjoyed a dramatic rebound in performance as bad debt charges related to Covid-19 have faded.
Standard Bank declared a final dividend of 511 cents per share. Its shares were up 1% by 0925 GMT.