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Barclays and Absa Group in talks to combine their Africa-based assets

Barclays PLC and South Africa's Absa Group Ltd. are in discussions to combine their Africa-based assets, a move they hope will accelerate the banks' expansion across the continent. Barclays, which has a 55.5% shareholding in Absa, last year embarked on a consolidation with the South African bank and moved its Africa regional office from Dubai to South Africa.

This will further combine Absa and Barclays businesses in Africa legally as well as operationally, in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and the Indian Ocean. Barclays Bank would remain the majority shareholder of the combined African operations. The proposed combination wouldn't be achieved before 2013 and is dependent on regulatory approvals, the banks said.

The move comes as other major banks in South Africa are putting more focus on the continent. Last week, Standard Bank Group Ltd. said it will further reduce its operations outside of Africa and place more emphasis on expanding in key African markets like Nigeria and Angola. Nedbank Group Ltd. formed a partnership with Nigeria's Ecobank this year, while Rand Merchant Bank is eyeing buying an asset in Kenya.

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