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CAPE TOWN - Nothing, outside a financial-market collapse on the scale of the Great Recession, can faze Capitec Bank Holdings.

The lender’s stock has gained in all but one of the years since it began trading in February 2002, jumping more than 50 000%, the most among banks across emerging markets during that period. Even as South Africa battles an economy ravaged by political unrest, the shares have climbed 24% this year, about nine times the rate peers on the FTSE/JSE Africa Banks Index.

Capitec, which specialises in providing loans that aren’t backed by assets to low-income earners, has seen its annual net profit jump almost 130 times since 2003 to R3.79 billion as of the end of February. It has expanded faster than the nation’s four biggest banks, adding 1.3 million customers in the last fiscal year alone to 8.6 million.

“Capitec’s large customer base offers an attractive opportunity to cross-sell other financial products in the future,” said Harry Botha, a banking analyst at Avior Capital Markets in Cape Town. And while others are losing customers at the bottom end of the retail market, Capitec is expected to attract more, according to Patrice Rassou, the head of equities at Sanlam Investment Management in Cape Town. That expectation has helped boost Capitec’s stock this year.

Capitec yesterday gained 1.93% to close at R863 on the JSE, more than double the gain in the banking index.