HSBC first in line for stake in Nedbank

HSBC yesterday confirmed it is in exclusive talks with insurer Old Mutual to acquire up to 70 per cent of the shares in Nedbank, South Africa’s fourth largest lender, in a bid to aggressively ramp up its offering in the country.

The parties have not disclosed the terms of a potential deal, though analysts yesterday said that the acquisition would likely be at a premium of anything up to 20 per cent of Nedbank’s current market value, meaning that HSBC could be in line to pay out almost £5bn for the stake.

Old Mutual’s acceptance of the deal is dependant upon it receiving approval from the country’s central bank, South African Reserve Bank (SARB), to transfer £1.5bn of the proceeds over to the group balance sheet to pay down its debt.

However, the firm appeared confident of gaining consent for its plans, with chief executive Julian Roberts saying Old Mutual would not have gone into exclusive talks without hope of regulatory approval.

Analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch said: “We note that this alone would be sufficient to meet the group’s objective to pay down £1.5bn of debt by the end of 2012. This is significant in that not only does the group now look very comfortably capitalised, but there will be significantly less need to retain earnings going forwards – a positive for dividends and other shareholder cash return mechanisms.”

The rest of the funds would be reinvested in South Africa and other emerging markets, Old Mutual said.

For HSBC, which beat rivals such as Standard Chartered in bidding for the stake, the move will provide it with a launching pad to properly break into the rapidly-growing African market.

The bank has traditionally lagged its peers on the continent, making a deal of this magnitude even more crucial to its strategy of capitalising on emerging markets growth. Its customers in Asia, where chief executive Michael Geoghegan relocated earlier this year, are increasingly showing an appetite for striking deals in Africa,


LAZARD
FINANCIAL ADVISER TO HSBC

IT’S shaping up to be quite a silly season for the investment banks, which have been shocked out of the usual August lull to advise on the M&A boom currently gripping the City.

Advising on the deal of the day yesterday, HSBC’s proposed acquisition of a controlling stake in South Africa’s Nedbank from Old Mutual, were an impressive roster of large and small investment banks.
Lazard was on HSBC’s side, having been hired by the bank almost two months ago to evaluate a potential deal. Its advice has clinched HSBC exclusivity in the deal talks, fighting off stiff competition from the likes of fellow emerging markets-focused giant Standard Chartered.

Old Mutual has also brought in the big guns, with retained broker and financial adviser Bank of America Merrill Lynch, blue-blooded bank Rothschild and boutique Lexicon Partners all playing their part on the deal for the insurer.

BoA Merrill Lynch’s team was led by head of international M&A Carlo Calabria, head of European financial institutions Henrietta Baldcok and Marc Heilner, the bank’s head of corporate and investment banking on the ground in South Africa.
Nedbank, meanwhile, has engaged Credit Suisse.