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Governor of the South African Reserve Bank Gill Marcus/AFP

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S.African central bank rescues troubled lender

Governor of the South African Reserve Bank Gill Marcus/AFP

Governor of the South African Reserve Bank Gill Marcus/AFP

PRETORIA, August 10 – South Africa’s central bank stepped in to rescue embattled lender African Bank Investments Limited Sunday after its share price plummeted and it said it needed 8.5 billion rand ($800 million) to continue operating.

The bank has been put under curatorship — or administration — and will receive a 10 billion rand capital injection and protection for creditors, Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus told a news conference.

Lenders including Barclays Africa, FirstRand and fund administrator the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) have agreed to underwrite the capital raising, Marcus added.

The bank, which has been plagued by bad debts, had been put under curatorship to give it time “to come up with rescue plan,” she said, adding that the bank’s board had not objected to the move to administration and would cooperate.

The CEO and founder of African Bank Investments Limited (Abil), Leon Kirkinis, resigned last Wednesday, and on Friday the bank’s share price collapsed from 6.88 rand to 31 cents, wiping out more than 95 percent of its value in three days. It had already plummeted from 30 rand a share in March last year.

In a six-month period to March 2014 the bank posted a headline loss of 3.1 billion rand, the governor said.

Marcus said retail depositors represent less than one percent of Abil’s creditors and she assured customers that their savings would be protected.

“We are therefore able to make an unequivocal commitment to all existing retail depositors that their money is safe, and that they can continue with African Bank without fear that their deposits will be frozen or lost,” she said.

“They will have full access to their money in the ordinary course of business.”

Abil is mainly a small-loan bank for low-income earners and has been hit by rising inflation and unemployment.

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