Monday 10 May 2021: Two Nigerian leading Banks – Zenith Bank Plc and Access Bank Plc are among the list of financial institutions from Africa and the Middle East that have indicated an interest in the acquisition of Union Bank Plc and other African assets of Atlas Mara Group, a Pan-African banking group.
Bloomberg which disclosed this quoted sources familiar with the matter to have disclosed that Atlas Mara Limited, the London Stock Exchange-listed pan-African banking group started by Mr. Bob Diamond has received a number of approaches for its 49.97 per cent holding in Union Bank of Nigeria Plc.
Zenith Bank Plc and Access Bank Plc are among the suitors that have expressed interest alongside other African rivals such as Morocco’s Attijariwafa Bank, the sources said.
A top executive of one of the lenders who also pleaded to remain anonymous confirmed the development.
Middle Eastern banks and private equity suitors have also shown interest, according to the sources.
Some potential buyers have indicated that they may acquire all of Atlas Mara’s remaining assets in Africa, which would include its Zimbabwe unit, they said.
Atlas Mara has been working with Rothschild & Co. to consider options for its Union Bank stake, although no final decisions have been made, and there’s no certainty, the deliberations will lead to a transaction.
Representatives for Atlas Mara and Zenith Bank didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Attijariwafa Bank Managing Director Ismail Douiri and a representative for Access Bank also declined to comment.
A deal could signal an end to the incursion of Bob Diamond, the founder of Atlas Mara Limited and a former Chief Executive of Barclays Bank Plc, into the African financial market, after misjudging competition on the continent and overpaying for acquisitions.
The company said recently that it’s secured regulatory approval for the sales of its businesses in Botswana and Mozambique and received interest in other assets, without elaborating.
Atlas Mara also said it completed a planned restructuring process and extended a standstill agreement with its creditors to May 17 to complete the necessary documentation. It’s still in legal disputes with two creditors, TLG and Norsad, it added.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need to reposition the company, which has seen a plunge of about 96% in its stock since it started trading toward the end of 2013. The firm’s stake in UBN, Nigeria’s sixth-biggest bank by market value is its largest investment and seen as a foothold into the continent’s most populous nation.