Ex-Barclays CEO's African bank exits another market with Botswana deal

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Atlas Mara’s footprint in Africa is shrinking by another country.

The African banking group started by former Barclays chief executive officer Bob Diamond agreed to sell its stake in African Banking Corporation Botswana to Nigeria's Access Bank, according to statements on Monday. The deal marks the second transaction between Atlas Mara and Nigeria’s biggest lender, which agreed to buy its Mozambique unit last September.

Access Bank will buy a 78.15% shareholding in the Botswana lender for a cash consideration that represents approximately 1.13 times book value, Atlas Mara said. The amount includes a deferred portion payable 24 months after the transaction closes, which is expected in the second quarter, subject to regulatory approval, it said.

London-listed Atlas Mara is paring back on its African foray after Diamond misjudged competition on the continent and paid too much for acquisitions. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the need to reposition the company.

Atlas Mara was in talks to sell businesses in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia to Access Bank, Bloomberg News reported in December. The firm was nearing regulatory approval for the asset disposals, the people said.

The Lagos-based lender, with operations in 12 countries, said this year it’s looking to expand in eight new African markets by setting up offices in some countries, partnering with existing banks in some nations or deploying digital platforms to provide services to customers.

Access Bank said in a filing on Monday it was making the Botswana acquisition to “further solidify” its retail and corporate banking as well as support trade and payments across southern Africa.

"The bank has been perennially profitable, given an existing high-quality retail loan book with opportunities and scope for diversification and further expansion into corporate and SME lending," it said.

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