Riaan Stassen

Riaan Stassen, the former chief executive of Capitec Bank Holdings, said he was “very excited” about its banking business after he sold shares in the company worth R44 million.

Stassen said yesterday that he had cut his holdings in the Stellenbosch-based bank to 1.9 million shares to diversify his investment portfolio. Capitec stock worth R420m still accounted for more than half his investment holdings.

“I just rebalanced it really,” said Stassen, who serves on the bank’s board of directors after retiring as chief last year. “I’ve tried to increase my offshore holdings for the same reason.”

Capitec is setting aside more money for bad debt as a sluggish economy and mine strikes hurt borrowers. Stassen said he did not expect the economy to show a “significant improvement” over the next two years.

“There’s the definite impact of labour, which has been fairly tense in the past few months. And there are structural issues that make me believe there won’t be a significant improvement in the short term,” he said.

Almost half of South Africa’s estimated 21 million borrowers had impaired credit records at the end of December last year as economic growth in South Africa slowed to a four-year low in 2013. The platinum strike and a jobless rate of 25.2 percent are making it harder for some clients to service debt.

In March Capitec increased provisions for doubtful debts by more than a third to R3.64 billion in the year through February.

Unlike rival African Bank Investments, Capitec takes in customer deposits and benefits from fees and commissions linked to client transactions.

“We’ve now got just over 14 percent market share in primary banking clients and it’s growing significantly,” Stassen said. “I’m very excited about that part of the business.

“There’s a good understanding by management of the impact of the continued slow economy,” he added. - Bloomberg