Gupta-linked firm’s bid to buy Habib Bank ‘off the table’

It emerged during the case that Vardospan had not provided tax and financial information that the regulator required.

Habib is the smallest of SA’s 16 registered banks, with total assets of just R1.1bn, according to the bank supervision department’s 2016 report.

Presenting the report in Johannesburg on Friday, Naidoo also commented on calls for a state-owned bank and for more transformation in the banking sector, saying the Bank had no objection in principle to a state-owned bank or to black-owned banks — but emphasised that it would keep a tight rein on banks, whoever owned them, in line with its mandate.

“It doesn’t matter whether it is Johann Rupert or Patrice Motsepe or the state which owns the bank, our job is to protect the interests of depositors and we will do that as vigilantly as we can,” he said.

SA should have a more diversified ownership base in the banking sector and should continuously improve the level of black ownership, Naidoo said, but “we are of the view that transformation is a multi-objective challenge which goes beyond ownership”.

That included who banks lend to and whether they take financial inclusion seriously and treat their customers fairly. “Banks have done a lot but we think they can do more.”

After 11 years in which the Bank did not grant a single new banking licence, it is now considering preliminary applications by three banks – Tyme, Discovery and the Post Bank.