SA back on market with US$50m issue

Sean Kennedy

SOUTH Africa's ABSA Bank plans to kick off its newly licensed banking operation in Singapore with an attractively priced US$50 million floating-rate certificate of deposit (FRCD).

Underwritten by two as-yet unnamed Singapore banks, the issue will be for three years.

'It's the first offshore fund-raising by a South African bank for some years, certainly since sanctions came off,' said Ken Hughes, general manager, business development, with the group's Hong Kong-based ABSA Finance Asia, yesterday.

'I would guess it's something like [the first in] nine to 10 years.' The mandate has not yet been formally awarded but Mr Hughes expects the deal to be ready late next month.

As a new name in the market, but with US$25 billion in total assets, ABSA is expected to find good demand. Mr Hughes said the deal would offer investors a good coupon.

'The pricing is going to be attractive to investors - it's going to be higher than Standard Chartered's,' he said.

Chartered this week launched a $1.6 billion five-year FRCD with a coupon of 35 basis points above the three-month Hong Kong interbank offered rate.

This means expanded lead managers taking $100 million or more of the issue receive an all-in yield of 50 basis points and managers receive 40 basis points at the other end of the scale.

ABSA said on Wednesday the Monetary Authority of Singapore had granted it a licence to open a branch in the republic.

South African banks were barred for years from countries in the region because of apartheid-related sanctions.