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South African Banks reiterate interest in rescued banks

By Babajide Komolafe
Three South African banks have reiterated their quest to acquire majority stakes in the rescued banks.

The banks namely Standard Bank Group imited,  Nedbank Group Limited and FirstRand Limited insist that they are still in the race for the eight banks  whose chief executives and executive directors were sacked by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) last year.

These are Intercontinental Bank, Oceanic Bank, Union Bank, Afribank, Finbank, Bank PHB, Equitorial Trust Bank,  and Spring Bank. In addition to these are Wema Bank and Unity Bank that were given till  September 30th  to recapitalize.

Standard Bank, the Johannesburg-based lender with operations in 17 African countries including Nigeria, is “still part of the process,” spokesman Erik Larsen said yesterday.

FirstRand Ltd. and Nedbank Group Ltd. said they may also be involved in the bidding.
“We are continuing to pursue our options on a number of different fronts, including the Central Bank of Nigeria process,” Sam Moss, investor relations director at FirstRand, said in an e-mail yesterday.

Nedbank will act in a “supportive role” to its Togo-based partner Ecobank Transnational Inc. in considering the process, Chief Executive Officer Mike Brown said yesterday.

Ecobank, which agreed to cooperate with Nedbank at the end of 2008, already has operations in Nigeria.

As many as 15 foreign and local companies registered last year to investigate buying stakes in the banks. Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi said last month that he expects only three international banks to join private-equity firms and local banks in the bidding.

But at a meeting with shareholders of the banks, he “reiterated that the CBN will not usurp the rights of shareholders and that the shareholders should be rest-assured that the final decision on the recapitalization of the banks rests with them said that the final decision would be taken by exiting shareholders”

“The meeting, which was chaired by the CBN Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was the second in the series of dialogue initiated by the Bank with the stakeholders to engender effective collaboration on the issue of recapitalising the affected banks.

He  reassured stakeholders that having secured the depositors’ fund with the reform and other measures instituted within the last few months, the focus now is to salvage some value for the shareholders.

Mallam Sanusi noted that liquidation and nationalisation are not desired options, stating that he is convinced that fresh injection of capital through strategic partnership remains the best approach to quickly get these banks to safe haven.

He also allayed the fears of stakeholders, making it very clear that the CBN would not sell the banks as it is not the business of CBN to do that.

The CBN, according to him, only recommended some reputable financial advisers, who, are working with the board and management of these banks to source, and negotiate with any of such investors that can create some value for the affected banks. He emphasized that the process of repackaging the banks is being driven by the boards of the affected banks, some of which have held discussions with the strategic partners without direct involvement of the CBN.


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