Atlas Mara in deal to buy Rwandan bank

The EastAfrican: A firm linked to former Barclays executive Bob Diamond is expanding its footprint on the continent with the acquisition of a second Rwandan bank.

The EastAfrican has learnt that the London Stock Exchange-listed Atlas Mara is at an advanced stages of finalising the acquisition of the majority stake in Banque Populaire du Rwanda (BPR), which effectively increases its presence in the country’s banking industry following last year’s purchase of some assets of Rwanda Development Bank (BRD).

The firm also has interests in Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria.

Atlas Mara was formed by Mr Diamond and Ashish J. Thakkar, one of the richest men in Africa, with family ties in Uganda, and listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange in December 2013. Its strategy is to acquire targeted banks in Africa where it hopes to become a leading financial services group.

“The actual takeover is expected on May 1, and we expect a major restructuring afterwards,” a source privy to the deal told The EastAfrican, but would not divulge details of the acquisition.

BPR posted a Rwf403.2 million ($0.58 million) half-year net profit last year, a recovery from a Rwf1.8 billion ($2.6 million) loss recorded during the same period in 2013, according to the bank’s financial statements.

The bank recorded a rise in total assets and liabilities from Rwf157.4 billion ($227.7 million) in 2013 to Rwf168.3 billion ($243.5 million) during the same period last year.

Industry players say Atlas Mara’s acquisition of a 90 per cent stake in Rwanda’s biggest commercial bank by customer base, could serve as a launch pad into other East African countries.

Negotiators of the deal are reported to be putting the final touches to the model of payment of some BPR clients-turned-shareholders, which has been the major issue of contention.

BPR clients, most of whom founded the institution as a co-operative society, own 65 per cent of the bank, while the remaining 35 per cent is held by Rabobank, a Dutch co-operative conglomerate. Under the new ownership arrangement, Rabobank will retain 10 per cent of the shares.

John Rwangombwa, the Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, declined to comment on the deal, saying it was still under discussion.

“Once it is through, I will be in a position to say something about it,” said Mr Rwangombwa.

Ephraim Turahirwa, the CEO of BPR, also avoided divulging any information, referring The EastAfrican to the bank’s shareholders and board of directors for details.

“As a CEO, I am just a manager, not a shareholder,” said Mr Turahirwa. “I am not in a position to tell you anything; my board chair is in Holland. I can’t tell you much.”

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