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A Malawian bank has bought a majority stake in Barclays Plc's Zimbabwean unit (ZSE: BARC).

 

The move by the First Merchant Bank (MSE: FMB) of Malawi ends months of speculation after the British financial institution announced it was disposing of its African assets.

 

FMB Malawi's pursuit of the controlling stake had been facing resistance from the management of Barclays Zimbabwe, which had also tabled a bid to take over the iconic financial institution.

 

However, the deal between FMB and Barclays Plc sailed through on Wednesday and was now awaiting regulatory approval, officials said.

 

Barclays Plc and FMB officials were reportedly in Zimbabwe for meetings with local staff and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe on the deal.

FMB group managing director Hitesh Anadkat told the Financial Gazette newspaper that the bank would be rebranded into Barclays & FMB.

 

"We are looking at being in Zimbabwe for a long time, not short term because we see a big future here," Mr Anadkat was quoted saying.

 

Last week, Barclays Zimbabwe's low level management filed an urgent High Court application seeking to stop the sale of the bank to FMB or any investor, saying they should get the right of first refusal.

 

The workers also argued that the transaction must comply with Zimbabwe's tough indigenisation laws that compel foreign-owned companies to cede 51 per cent of their shares to locals.

 

Critics of the deal have cited reports that some FMB directors were embroiled in allegations of financial irregularities in Uganda and Malawi.

 

The alleged shady deals were said to have resulted in the collapse of Crane Bank in Uganda, rendering 300 workers jobless.

 

Barclays Zimbabwe has been operating since 1912 and was one of the most stable institutions in a country that has leapt from one financial crisis to another since the turn of the millennium.

 

The bank employs over 1,000 people, a network of 38 branches and was listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.

 

Barclays Plc held a 67.68 per cent stake in the Zimbabwean unit.

 

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