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More than 15 years ago an ambitious transnational corporate alliance was completed when British bank Barclays acquired control of SA’s Absa. That deal, a foreign direct investment of R33bn, was seen as a vote of confidence in SA’s capital markets and the highly regulated banking sector in particular.

The merits of the deal were easy to digest. By owning Absa Barclays would be able to spread its wings into the African continent. On the other hand Absa, facing stiff competition in its domestic market, would be able to leverage the financial muscle of the Barclays brand to widen its footprint...

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