March 7, 2013 / 6:22 AM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 3-Standard Bank eyes sharper Africa focus as CEO departs

* Jacko Maree retiring after 13 years at helm

* Sim Tshabalala, Ben Kruger to be joint-CEOs

* Earnings rise 8 pct

* Net-interest income up 18 pct (Recasts lead, adds new quotes, details)

By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura

JOHANNESBURG, March 7 (Reuters) - The new co-heads of South Africa's Standard Bank promised to sharpen the African focus of the continent's biggest lender following Thursday's announcement by veteran chief executive Jacko Maree he was stepping down.

Maree, 57, will be succeeded by Sim Tshabalala, the head of South African operations who described himself as a "Zulu boy from Soweto", and investment banking head Ben Kruger.

"There is a wall of liquidity and capital coming through the African continent. But to win, we need to ramp up our Africanness," Tshabalala, 45, told a news conference.

"There's been an understanding in the market that (Maree's) had a long tenure and that there could very well be a change so it's not much of a surprise," said Steve Meintjes, head of research at brokerage Imara SP Reid.

"The fact that they are making internal appointments points to depth of management."

Under Maree's 13-year tenure, Standard Bank ramped up its overseas presence and aggressively added branches across Africa, a strategy that has been widely lauded.

But his attempt to push into other emerging markets such as Argentina, Turkey and Russia was seen as a costly blunder and the bank has since scaled back its ambitions outside Africa.

Tshabalala will remain head of the South African business and take on operations on the rest of the continent.

Kruger, who has been with the bank for 28 years, will stay in charge of personal and business banking, and corporate and investment banking.

On Maree's watch, Standard Bank sold a 20 percent stake to Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, a deal that highlighted China's growing role in Africa and Standard Bank's ambition to profit from trade with Asia.

STAYING ON

Maree said he would stay on at Standard and use his wide contacts to generate business.

Tshabalala described his former boss as "fiendishly clever", "famously impatient" and "infuriatingly pedantic".

Kruger said Standard Bank was not intent on immediate acquisitions in Africa, where it already has 17 operations.

"We are not anti-small acquisitions but have nothing on the horizon that we are contemplating," the 53-year-old said.

South African banks are focusing more on Africa, where the number of people without access to financial services is much higher than in their home market.

Rival FirstRand is making acquisitions on the continent to keep up with Standard, and Absa has bought up the African businesses of its parent Barclays to enlarge its presence to the north.

Standard Bank on Thursday reported an 8 percent rise in full-year profit, helped by double-digit growth in income from fees and lending. It said diluted headline earnings per share totalled 931.7 cents from 860.4 cents last year.

Its shares were slightly down at 115.93 rand at 1431 GMT, lagging a firmer Top-40 index. (Additional reporting by Ed Cropley; Editing by David Dolan and David Cowell)

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