09 Apr

'Sanjeev Gupta's new bank eyes brisk UK trade after Brexit' Simon Evans, Australian Financial Review

British billionaire Sanjeev Gupta is positioning himself for a post-Brexit world through a small trading bank in the United Kingdom offering financing options for companies doing business in Commonwealth countries.

Mr Gupta's GFG Alliance has just received approval from British regulators for the Commonwealth Trade Bank to operate as a separate entity, almost a year after he acquired what was known as Diamond Bank UK, from its parent in Nigeria.

Executive chairman of GFG Alliance Sanjeev Gupta is stepping up a push to be the financier to British businesses via the rebadged Commonwealth Trade Bank.  AAP

Mr Gupta said the bank would operate independently of the other industrial, energy and property operations in the GFG Alliance empire. It would offer a range of financial services including receivables, inventory and supply-chain finance.

He said new opportunities would open up in emerging and Commonwealth markets, including India and Australia.

"GFG companies have a long history of trade within the Commonwealth and we hope to use that experience to design a British bank focused on helping UK companies to access exciting new opportunities in a post-Brexit world,'' Mr Gupta said.

The official start of operations by Commonwealth Trade Bank comes as potential investors put GFG Alliance's own finances under close scrutiny as it prepares for a potential public float of operations in both Australia and the United States.

Ironically, Mr Gupta has also come under criticism in Australia for being a slow payer of small businesses after GFG took over the operations of the Whyalla steelworks and other Australian assets including mini steel mills in Melbourne and Sydney, previously owned by Arrium.

Administrators KordaMentha sold the former Arrium assets for around $700 million. They collapsed in 2016.

GFG has just been granted approval after a lengthy process by the UK's Prudential Regulatory Authority for a change in control of the bank, after the plan was originally announced in late April 2018.

Independent entity

GFG has operated another bank, Wyelands Bank in the UK, since 2016 and the new Commonwealth Trade Bank will be part of the group's expanding financial services unit, but operate as an independent entity.

Diamond Bank was first established in Nigeria in 1991 and listed on the stock exchange in 2005 in that country. It has just merged with Nigeria's Access Bank to become the largest bank in Africa by customer numbers.

Mr Gupta has strong links with Nigeria, and in the early days of his own Liberty House group in 1992 made his first significant transaction to a customer in that country.

Mr Gupta was an economics student in 1992 and living on campus in a residential college at Cambridge University in the UK at the time.  The situation offered a tax loophole, because it was an academic institution.

Transactions conducted on the college telex machine were exempted from the British equivalent of GST and he used the telex to trade a range of commodities, including the sale of 2000 tonnes of steel to a Nigerian customer.

by Simon Evans, the Australian Financial Review. 

Click here to read original article.

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