M&A deal flow out of Africa

A weak South African rand and low valuations are causing cash-rich acquirers from China and the Middle East to eye South Africa for prospective targets.

As seen at the top end of the M&A scale when ICBC, China’s biggest lender, acquired a 20 per cent stake in South Africa’s Standard Bank in February for £3.45 billion.

ICBC chairman Jiang Jianging commented that the acquisition was “conducive to the deepening of Sino-Africa economic and trade cooperation.”

In September, Dubai World Africa, the African subsidiary of Dubai World Group, one of the world’s largest holding companies, announced it had acquired major shareholdings in South Africa’s Shamwari Game Reserve, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve and Jock Safari Lodge. These acquisitions reflect the Group’s strategy of acquiring high-end assets in key destinations across the world.

Craig Brewer, investment-banking principal at Absa Capital commented: “We are seeing cross-border interest from the East, looking at South Africa and the rest of Africa. In terms of acquisitions, it is a time for opportunities.”

The global credit crisis could also generate acquisition opportunities for South African firms themselves, many of which have healthy balance sheets relative to their global peers and want to muscle in to other emerging markets.

South African players, such as media firm Naspers, argue that their African experience gives them expertise in riskier environments, while South African construction firm Aveng has also announced that it is on the acquisition trail, citing “more realistic price expectations” from vendors.

Marc Barber

Raven Connelly

Marc was editor of GrowthBusiness from 2006 to 2010. He specialised in writing about entrepreneurs, private equity and venture capital, mid-market M&A, small caps and high-growth businesses.

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