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JOHANNESBURG - Capitec Bank grew its active client base to 9.2 million in the past year, equivalent to 106 000 new customers a month, which contributed towards its strong earning growth in the six months to August.

It opened 15 new branches and created 463 new jobs in the six month period, and 1053 new jobs in the past year.

Headline earnings a share increased by 17% to 1769 cents in the six months to August from 1517c in the previous corresponding period.

Total lending and investment income rose by 12% to R8.4 billion, while operating costs increased by 20% to R3.2bn from R2.6bn.

The group attributed the higher costs to the increase in its employees, increased salary incentives, information technology and marketing expenditure to ensure that its growth aspirations were appropriately supported.

Bad debt write-offs rose by 42% to R3.4 million from R2.4m, which it partly attributed to the increased number of clients under debt review.

But Capitec said the total movement of the provision for doubtful debts in the current year remained flat, because of the tightening of its credit granting criteria and advancing better quality loans with rescheduled loan balances.

Gerrie Fourie, Capitec’s chief executive, said South Africa must have a clear direction on how to grow the economy to create more jobs, because the job losses and non-performing economy had forced the bank to re-evaluate its strategy on lending.

“We evaluate our credit book on a weekly basis and we noticed that some of the companies were under pressure and some were closing down, especially in the manufacturing sector.

“With the consumers under strain because of the slowdown in the economy, we had to re-evaluate our lending.

"Gross loans and advances with a product term of between 61 and 84 months increased by R1.2bn and the credit card book increased by R1.3bn in the current period,” he said.

An interim dividend a share of 525c was declared, which was 17% higher than the 450c dividend declared in the prior period.

Fourie said the failure of the economy to create jobs was a worry for the business sector.

He said Capitec was trying to address the issue of unemployment, particularly among the youth, with 82percent of the new recruits in the bank under the age of 35.

He added that the ANC’s elective conference in December was very important for the country, because the new president would have to provide a clear direction on the economic policy to grow the economy.

Capitec shares dropped 1.35% on the JSE yesterday and closed at R877.