Access Bank in talks with Atlas Mara to take over BancABC

Access Bank Plc is in talks about a potential acquisition of assets belonging to Atlas Mara Ltd.

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Access Bank Plc is in talks to take over BancABC and other African assets of the pan-African banking group, Atlas Mara, in order to expand its reach in Africa.

A recent report from Bloomberg suggests that, although there is no communication from the parties involved yet, insiders claim Access Bank Plc is interested in Bob Diamond’s Atlas Mara’s businesses in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.

The representatives of Atlas Mara and Access Bank declined to comment, but it is believed negotiations are in preliminary stages and no final decision has been made.

Why sell BancABC?

The decision to sell may be in connection with the recent difficulties the bank is facing. In this regard, Atlas Mara said recently that it is in talks with the principal holders of $81 million of convertible bonds due Dec. 31 and other creditors “regarding a range of options to address the upcoming debt maturities.”

Should the deal go through, Access Bank would be the second West African bank in Zimbabwe, after Ecobank. A deal would also result in the second transaction between Atlas Mara and Access Bank, after the Bank agreed to buy its Mozambique unit at the end of September.

This would mean that Atlas Mara will be left with its largest investment, a 49.97% stake in Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, which gives it a footprint in Africa’s largest economy.

What you should know

  • BancABC, formerly African Banking Corporation, was formed in 1997 through the merger of First Merchant Bank and Heritage Investment Bank. Atlas Mara bought BancABC in 2014 for US$265 million.
  • Zambia was listed among the company’s discontinued operations in its first-half earnings report.
  • Mara traded off its operations in Rwanda, Zambia and Mozambique to Kenya’s Equity Bank, saying operations in the four markets contributed under 2% of total group net income.
  • Atlas Mara kept the Zimbabwe operation, which it said remained solid despite a tough market noting in its latest interim financial report, that BancABC’s Zimbabwe operation “has shown resilience despite the challenging situation and delivered an impressive performance in the current period.”
  • BancABC’s Zimbabwe operation alone has assets of $9.4 billion.
  • Atlas Mara has lost 96% of its value since listing on the London Stock Exchange in 2013, and is exiting markets or seeking partners in countries where it doesn’t see opportunities to bulk up or make money.
  • The firm recently agreed to sell its Rwandan and Tanzanian units to Kenya’s KCB group.
  • The breakup of the company comes after Diamond misjudged competition and overpaid for acquisitions, with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic accelerating the need to reposition Atlas Mara.
  • Access Bank plans to be present in 22 African countries over the next five years and currently operates in Sierra Leone, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zambia and Congo. It recently invested in South African lender Grobank. The Chief Executive Officer of the Bank, Herbert Wigwe, said the bank is also targeting Angola, Senegal, Liberia and Ivory Coast, for expansion.


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