Harare: Barclays plc has sold its majority stake in its Zimbabwean operation to Malawi’s First Merchant Bank (FMB), putting an end to months of a fierce bidding war to take over one of the country’s iconic financial institutions, Zimbabwe Independent can exclusively report.

Barclays Bank Zimbabwe was established in 1912, and has operated in the country continuously since then, making it a landmark feature on the local financial services landscape.

The bank, listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE), has over 1 000 employees and a countrywide network of 38 branches in main urban areas.

Barclays Bank Plc, which held 67,68% shareholding in the local unit, last year announced it was disposing of its African assets, including in Zimbabwe, to focus on British and American markets.

 Barclays Bank Zimbabwe, alongside the Egyptian business, was not part of the 2013 deal that saw Barclays Africa, formerly ABSA, acquire eight African operations from its parent company due to high local political risk.

In February last year, Barclays Plc announced it would conclude negotiations on the pull-out by June this year. This triggered a stampede for Barclays Bank Zimbabwe. A number of bidders have been scrambling to acquire the bank.

Informed sources involved in the transaction told the Independent today that Barclays Plc and FMB directors sealed the deal in London yesterday after months of negotiations.

Soon after signing the deal, Barclays Plc and FMB directors and managers fly out to Harare via Johannesburg, South Africa, for meetings with Barclays Bank Zimbabwe managers and employees, as well as Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe officials.

“It’s a done deal,” an informed source told the Independent. “It was signed in London yesterday (Tuesday). Barclays Plc and FMB managers have just arrived in Harare for meetings to finalise the transaction pending regulatory approvals.”

Barclays Bank Zimbabwe will this afternoon issue a cautionary statement to the ZSE.

The deal will officially be announced to Barclays Bank Zimbabwe managers and workers at around 5pm today in a “town hall arrangement” at the bank’s headquarters in Harare. Zimbabwe Independent