x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Barclays unit out of Dubai for Africa

Barclays Africa offers an ultimatum to 123 staff in Dubai, saying they must relocate as the office moves to Johannesburg or leave the bank.

Barclays is moving its Africa headquarters from Dubai to Johannesburg, as 123 staff decide whether to relocate or leave their jobs.

The move marks a definitive end for Barclays' plans to create an emerging markets centre based in Dubai and spanning Africa, the Middle East and parts of South East Asia.

"We wanted to get much closer to our customers in Africa," said Sami Lahoud, the head of corporate affairs for Barclays Africa. "This has no impact whatsoever to our operations in the UAE and the Gulf."

Barclays Africa provides onshore banking services in a number of African markets, including Egypt.

Back-office staff at the bank in Dubai have been given the choice to relocate or leave the company, ahead of its planned closure at the end of the year.

The Barclays Africa office, originally based in Johannesburg before its move to Dubai in 2006, had housed an emerging markets unit that included the UAE, Pakistan, India and Indonesia.

Management of those regions was transferred in late 2009 to Barclays Corporate, the bank's global corporate banking arm, leaving Barclays Africa headquartered in a country where it did not operate banking services.

But Barclays has recently embarked on cost-cutting measures worldwide, having exited from its retail banking operations in Russia and cut its number of branches in Spain.

Asked whether there would be further job cuts for Barclays staff in the UAE, a spokeswoman for the lender said she was "not aware" of any.

"The UAE continues to be an important market for the Barclays Group," she said. "We remain committed to building a balanced business, maintaining our strategic momentum and driving profitable growth in the region."

Last month, Barclays offered voluntary redundancy to hundreds of staff in Barclays Corporate in the UK.

"As part of the transformation of Barclays Corporate we are examining ways to optimise growth as well as control costs, and to this end have entered a period of consultation with our employees' trade union and representative bodies," the bank told Reuters.

Barclays Africa's profits before tax increased 7 per cent to £32 million (Dh192.4m) in the first three months of this year compared with the first quarter of last year, according to the bank's interim management statement.

The rise was driven by increased cost-cutting and reduced impairments, although the bank also reported a decline in income due to the unrest in Egypt and a contraction in its balance sheet.

ghunter@thenational.ae