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deals - Economy - News - May 6, 2021

African Banks Including Zenith, Access Lobby to Acquire Union Bank

Pan-African banking group, Atlas Mara, has received offers from Zenith bank and Access bank for the acquisition of its 49.97% stake in Union Bank Plc, Nigeria’s sixth-biggest bank by market value, Bloomberg reports.

The two Nigerian banks are said to be among the financial institutions from Africa and the Middle East that have shown interest in acquiring Union Bank and other African assets owned by Atlas Mara.

Atlas Mara, listed on the London stock exchange, was compelled to reposition following the devastating effect of the coronavirus pandemic on its businesses. Its shares crashed by about 96% since it started trading towards the end of 2013. The company’s stake in Union Bank is its largest investment on the continent.

In January 2021, Business Elites Africa had reported that Atlas Mara was divesting its interest in Union Bank but the bank denied the story, describing it as a ‘rumour’.

On Wednesday, May 4, Atlas Mara confirmed that it has received offers from potential buyers of its African assets but did not elaborate. The company also said relevant authorities in Botwana and Mozambique have approved the sales of its businesses in both countries.

The Group also stated that it has extended a standstill agreement with its creditors to May 17 to complete necessary documentation on its restructuring exercise. It added that it is still in a legal dispute with two creditors, TLG and Norsad.

According to Bloomberg’s report which cited anonymous sources, Morocco’s multinational commercial bank, Attijariwafa, Middle Eastern banks, and private equity suitors are part of the corporate entities looking to buy Atlas Mara’s assets in Africa, including its Zimbabwe unit.

While the sale and acquisition talks are still premature, Atlas Mara is engaging multinational investment bank, Rothschild & Co. to weigh options for its Union Bank stake, the report said.

When a deal is finally sealed, it could mark the end of Atlas Mara’s business foray in Africa. Its founder, Bob Diamond, a former Chief Executive of Barclays Bank Plc, was said to have misjudged competition on the continent and overpaid for acquisitions.

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