Nigeria's biggest bank eyes expansion to 8 other African countries

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Access Bank, Nigeria’s biggest lender, has identified eight African countries for a potential expansion as it seeks to benefit from a continental-wide free trade pact.

Access Bank plans “to expand to high-potential markets, leveraging the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area,” Chief Executive Officer Herbert Wigwe said on an investor call on Tuesday. The company already operates in 12 countries following a series of acquisitions spanning from Kenya to its home market.

The markets of interest are Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Angola, Namibia and Ethiopia, according to an online presentation emailed by the Lagos-based lender.

It will also use its London-based unit as an “anchor for growth” to expand representative offices in countries such as India, Lebanon and China, the CEO said

The African trade pact aims to bolster intra-regional commerce by lowering or eliminating cross-border tariffs, facilitating the movement of capital and people, promoting investment and paving the way for the establishment of a continental-wide customs union.

Access Bank plans to eventually expand into 22 African countries to cushion challenges in some markets, diversify earnings and take advantage of growth opportunities in the region.

The lender, which is looking to transition to a holding company this year, plans to open subsidiaries in insurance brokerage, consumer lending and agency banking as well as payments to boost revenue, Wigwe said.

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