Sanjeev Gupta, the British Industrialist, is expanding his involvement in regulated financial services and banking by entering an agreement with Diamond Bank PLC of Nigeria to acquire its UK-regulated banking subsidiary, Diamond Bank (UK) PLC.
The entrepreneur, who leads the GFG Alliance group of companies, announced today (26th April) that a subsidiary of his family’s Wyelands Trust, has signed an agreement to acquire Diamond Bank UK, subject to approval from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA). The Central Bank of Nigeria has already approved the transaction.
The proposed acquisition is part of Mr Gupta’s strategy to expand further the financial services activities of the GFG Alliance, alongside its other business pillars of metals, industrials, power generation, infrastructure and property. His decision to make a further investment in banking follows his initial successful period of ownership of Wyelands Bank PLC, which he acquired in 2016
Mr Gupta’s strategy is to identify and capitalise upon investment opportunities and gaps in the banking and financial markets. This is based on an analysis that significant gaps continue to exist in bank and non-bank funding availability for trade, commodity and supply-chain finance, globally.
Wyelands Bank, was established to address market gaps in funding for trade and working capital solutions to support UK industrial companies wanting to trade with developed economies worldwide. The new bank, which, upon change of control, is intended to be renamed British Commonwealth Trade Bank (BCTB) will complement this by addressing those same gaps for trade in developing economies, particularly within the Commonwealth. Like Wyelands Bank, BCTB will be separately capitalised and independently governed and managed.
Separately, Wyelands Capital, also part of the GFG Alliance, recently entered the credit insurance sphere by acquiring Transworld Credit Corporation, now being renamed Centinel Insurance Corporation (CIC), as well as investing in a joint venture with international working capital solutions business, Demica. These businesses are both regulated by the FCA.
Gupta said: “Finance is the life blood of our economy. Our first bank, Wyelands Bank, saw a gap in effective financial servicing for mid-sized UK industrial companies targeting developed countries worldwide and, after a successful first year, is now well on its way to becoming a leading institution in this market segment.
“The acquisition of BCTB, with its particular global networks, breadth of experience and specialist expertise in developing economies, will enable us to focus on a very different market gap; providing tailor-made financial solutions that enable UK businesses to access specific fast-growing markets, especially within the Commonwealth.
“GFG companies have a long history in trade with the Commonwealth and we hope to use both what we’ve learned and our worldwide contacts to help design a British bank focused on helping UK companies to access exciting new opportunities. Britain is a nation of traders, and, with our government’s new focus on international trade, we hope to play a key role in connecting UK businesses to customers and opportunities across the world, especially in the developing Commonwealth markets, where Britain has a long and rich history.”
“Post Brexit, there will be a heightened need to provide competitive financing to British companies in the commodities and industrial sectors as they seek to grow in new markets globally. BCTB will aim to be the ‘bridge’ between borrowers and lenders for trade with these markets.”
Uzoma Dozie, CEO of Diamond Bank PLC said: “We feel the proposed sale of our UK subsidiary, DBUK, to the GFG Alliance will provide our UK clients, employees and stakeholders with a new shareholder committed to developing its activities and business. Our particular attraction is the experience the GFG Alliance has in managing regulated businesses, as well as knowledge of Africa, which forms a key competency of DBUK.”
The transaction was welcomed by Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, who said: “GFG’s acquisition of Diamond Bank UK will go a long way in helping UK businesses access opportunities in some of the world’s largest and fastest-growing markets. This includes the Commonwealth – with a third of the world’s population – where the bank has a strong presence.
“As we leave the European Union, it is essential that we make the most of trade and investment to help secure UK jobs, growth and prosperity. This is why my international economic department is helping companies seize the global business opportunities ahead.”
Sunak to use budget to expand apprenticeships in England
LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak will announce more funding for apprenticeships in England when he unveils his budget next week, the government said on Friday.
Employers taking part in the Apprenticeship Initiative Scheme will from April 1 receive 3,000 pounds ($4,179) for each apprentice hired, regardless of age – an increase on current grants of between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds depending on age.
The scheme will extended by six months until the end of September, the finance ministry said.
Sunak will also announce an extra 126 million pounds for traineeships for up to 43,000 placements.
Sunak’s March 3 budget will likely include a new round of spending to prop up the economy during what he hopes will be the last phase of lockdown, but he will also probably signal tax rises ahead to plug the huge hole in the public finances.
Sunak is also expected to announce a “flexi-job” apprenticeship scheme, whereby apprentices can join an agency and work for multiple employers in one sector, the finance ministry said.
“We know there’s more to do and it’s vital this continues throughout the next stage of our recovery, which is why I’m boosting support for these programmes, helping jobseekers and employers alike,” Sunak said in a statement.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken)
UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is seeking to build a consensus among G7 nations on how to stop large technology companies exploiting their dominance, warning that there can be no repeat of Facebook’s one-week media blackout in Australia.
Facebook’s row with the Australian government over payment for local news, although now resolved, has increased international focus on the power wielded by tech corporations.
“We will hold these companies to account and bridge the gap between what they say they do and what happens in practice,” Britain’s digital minister Oliver Dowden said on Friday.
“We will prevent these firms from exploiting their dominance to the detriment of people and the businesses that rely on them.”
Dowden said recent events had strengthened his view that digital markets did not currently function properly.
He spoke after a meeting with Facebook’s Vice-President for Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister.
“I put these concerns to Facebook and set out our interest in levelling the playing field to enable proper commercial relationships to be formed. We must avoid such nuclear options being taken again,” Dowden said in a statement.
Facebook said in a statement that the call had been constructive, and that it had already struck commercial deals with most major publishers in Britain.
“Nick strongly agreed with the Secretary of Stateâ€™s (Dowden’s) assertion that the governmentâ€™s general preference is for companies to enter freely into proper commercial relationships with each other,” a Facebook spokesman said.
Britain will host a meeting of G7 leaders in June.
It is seeking to build consensus there for coordinated action toward “promoting competitive, innovative digital markets while protecting the free speech and journalism that underpin our democracy and precious liberties,” Dowden said.
The G7 comprises the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada, but Australia has also been invited.
Britain is working on a new competition regime aimed at giving consumers more control over their data, and introducing legislation that could regulate social media platforms to prevent the spread of illegal or extremist content and bullying.
(Reporting by William James; Editing by Gareth Jones and John Stonestreet)
Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit
By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Friday it would offer a fast-track visa scheme for jobs at high-growth companies after a government-backed review warned that financial technology firms will struggle with Brexit and tougher competition for global talent.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak said that now Britain has left the European Union, it wants to make sure its immigration system helps businesses attract the best hires.
“This new fast-track scale-up stream will make it easier for fintech firms to recruit innovators and job creators, who will help them grow,” Sunak said in a statement.
Over 40% of fintech staff in Britain come from overseas, and the new visa scheme, open to migrants with job offers at high-growth firms that are scaling up, will start in March 2022.
Brexit cut fintechs’ access to the EU single market and made it far harder to employ staff from the bloc, leaving Britain less attractive for the industry.
The review published on Friday and headed by Ron Kalifa, former CEO of payments fintech Worldpay, set out a “strategy and delivery model” that also includes a new 1 billion pound ($1.39 billion) start-up fund.
“It’s about underpinning financial services and our place in the world, and bringing innovation into mainstream banking,” Kalifa told Reuters.
Britain has a 10% share of the global fintech market, generating 11 billion pounds ($15.6 billion) in revenue.
The review said Brexit, heavy investment in fintech by Australia, Canada and Singapore, and the need to be nimbler as COVID-19 accelerates digitalisation of finance, all mean the sector’s future in Britain is not assured.
It also recommends more flexible listing rules for fintechs to catch up with New York.
“We recognise the need to make the UK attractive a more attractive location for IPOs,” said Britain’s financial services minister John Glen, adding that a separate review on listings rules would be published shortly.
“Those findings, along with Ron’s report today, should provide an excellent evidence base for further reform.”
Britain pioneered “sandboxes” to allow fintechs to test products on real consumers under supervision, and the review says regulators should move to the next stage and set up “scale-boxes” to help fintechs navigate red tape to grow.
“It’s a question of knowing who to call when there’s a problem,” said Kay Swinburne, vice chair of financial services at consultants KPMG and a contributor to the review.
A UK fintech wanting to serve EU clients would have to open a hub in the bloc, an expensive undertaking for a start-up.
“Leaving the EU and access to the single market going away is a big deal, so the UK has to do something significant to make fintechs stay here,” Swinburne said.
The review seeks to join the dots on fintech policy across government departments and regulators, and marshal private sector efforts under a new Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT).
“There is no framework but bits of individual policies, and nowhere does it come together,” said Rachel Kent, a lawyer at Hogan Lovells and contributor to the review.
($1 = 0.7064 pounds)
(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Jane Merriman and John Stonestreet)
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