Questions are being asked about the way Barclays Africa’s bookbuild was conducted last week, when its UK parent sold nearly 34% of its shares, raising R37.7bn.

Five domestic institutions received the lion’s share of the allocations left over after less than half of the total book went to foreign investors.

Michael Wang, a director at Morgan Stanley & Co, one of the two joint bookrunners, said it would not comment on the identities of the South African shareholders on the Barclays Africa block "nor how they were selected".

Société Générale and Deutsche Bank, which acted as co-bookrunners, also declined to comment.

"Barclays plc sold the shares through the parties appointed to run the sale," said a Barclays Africa spokesman, who is not named in line with company policy. "Barclays Africa did not make any allocations to buyers."

The spokesman said the shares had been placed "with a large number of institutional investors", with more than half sold to local investors and the rest going to foreign investors.

The share placement was several times oversubscribed.

The anchor investor, the Public Investment Corporation, was allocated 7%. Usually, when a placing is oversubscribed, all of the applicants are allocated shares prorata.

"About a third of domestic investors who bid got zero allocation, while most, apart from a select few, got a very small percentage of what they bid," said a market participant, who did not want to be named.

"The word is that most of the allocation went to just five SA institutions. I don’t know if the company [Barclays Africa] had any say, or if the lead brokers all decided who to give this preferential allocation to.

"All that is clear is that there were many disappointed South African funds who got very little or nothing at what was at an attractive price on a large placement, while a few funds appear to have got the majority."

So far, one large institution had to make a mandatory public announcement after amassing shares beyond the 5% threshold.

Barclays Africa said on Tuesday that fund manager Allan Gray had lifted its interest in the bank to 5.3%, from 2.2% at the end of December.

Another market participant, who also declined to be named, said that there was a tried and tested formula to handle oversubscription.

"Remember you have a willing seller who has been presented with more demand than they expected, so instead of selling 22% they ended up selling 33% of the company.

"[There was] nothing untoward in the way it was done, just disappointing that smaller institutions were shut out."

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