Picture: MICHAEL ETTERSHANK
Picture: MICHAEL ETTERSHANK

The JSE opened weaker on Friday as banks were hammered following the National Treasury’s accusation that the Competition Commission’s charges of price fixing against local banks could confirm their "unbridled greed".

Concern has been raised about the possible consequences of a fine levied on 17 banks named by the Competition Commission, with some reports indicating it could run into billions of rand. The sector could face more heat amid indications it is set be drawn into political squabbles in government.

Banks could face a cumulative fine of R69.7bn, based on a 10% fine on annual turnover, a report in Business Day said. Standard Bank and Investec have been targeted for fines, with Barclays Africa (Absa) reportedly co-operating with the commission.

"While the financial pain for banks was likely to be short term, the reputational damage, however, would be another matter, particularly given the highly charged political debate around ‘monopoly capital’ prevailing in the country at the moment," Momentum SP Reid analysts said in a note.

Negative sentiment toward banks extended to all major sectors on the JSE in early trading, bar platinums, with retailers also under pressure. Resources and industrials opened weaker.

The market was also following weaker Asian markets, with the Nikkei 225 dropping 0.58% and the Hang Seng down 0.37%.

The Dow closed 0.04% higher at 20,619.17 points on Thursday, another record high.

At 9.41am the all share was 0.68% lower at 52,229.60 points. The benchmark top 40 dropped 0.70%. Banks lost 1.37%, food and drug retailers 1.11%, financials 0.99%, general retailers 0.95% and the gold index 0.80%.

Barclays Africa was the major casualty in the banking sector, losing 2.28% to R159.26. Standard Bank dropped 1.50% to R146.10. Investec was 1.01% lower at R95.20.

Among financials, Sanlam dropped 1.02% to R68 and MMI Holdings shed 1.57% to R25.66.

Gold Fields was 1.56% off at R44.30. The group said on Thursday it intended to spend $850m this year on asset development.

Woolworths was down 2.31% to R68.87 after reporting disappointing interim results on Thursday. It has lost nearly 6% this week.

Shoprite was down 1.62% to R173.79. Steinhoff shed 0.72% to R67.24.

Among property stocks, New Europe Property Investments dropped 1.10% to R150.73 and Rockcastle shed 0.44% to R33.81.

Naspers lost 0.30% to R2,160.

Comair softened 3.59% to R5.64 after jumping on Thursday following the announcement that South African Airways (SAA) was set to pay R1.16bn to Comair on competition issues.

Brait was 1.44% lower at R75.72.

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