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We’re sorry says Coronation Fund Managers

As its stake in African Bank wiped out.

African Bank’s largest shareholder, Coronation Fund Managers, apologised to investors and said it had learned a “sobering lesson” after its stake in the failed lender was wiped out.

South Africa’s central bank put Abil, as it’s known, into curatorship, akin to Chapter 11 bankruptcy, on August 10 after the lender said it needed at least R8.5 billion of capital to survive. Abil’s shares were suspended on August 11 after the South African Reserve Bank split it into a “good” bank and a “bad” book, and arranged for institutions to underwrite a R10 billion capital-raising exercise.

Coronation held about 22% of Abil before the company gave its trading update on Aug. 6 that precipitated a more than 90 percent decline in the stock value, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Cape Town-based fund manager then cut its holdings to less than 9% by August 8, it said.

“Losses have been incurred, for which we apologise,” the money manager, which manages the equivalent of about $54 billion, said in an e-mailed statement. “This has been a humbling experience for us. We do not like to make mistakes.”

Still, African Bank’s meltdown didn’t have a significant impact on the performance of any of the funds with exposure, Coronation said, without disclosing how much it lost in rand terms.

Rating lowered

African Bank long-term deposit and senior unsecured debt rating was lowered to Caa2 from Ba1 by Moody’s Investors Service yesterday, citing the “expected losses” for senior bondholders and wholesale depositors. The bank is on review for a possible downgrade because of the risk of higher than anticipated losses.

“Equity holders, preference shareholders and subordinated debt holders will lose all their capital,” Coronation said.

Fifteen months before African Bank’s rescue this week, David Stemerman told his fellow U.S. hedge fund managers to bet against the South African lender.

Stemerman, founder of $3 billion Conatus Capital Management LP, told a New York hedge-fund conference that African Bank had become vulnerable after aggressively building up its unsecured consumer lending investments and becoming too reliant on financing from the bond market.

©2014 Bloomberg News

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