Former Barclays boss trains sights on bank’s operations in Africa

Former Barclays PLC President Bob Diamond. FILE PHOTO | CARL DE SOUZA | AFP 

The company set up by former Barclays head Bob Diamond on Tuesday confirmed that it was preparing to bid for the UK-based bank’s African operations.

Mr Diamond’s involvement in the consortium, which the Guardian and Financial Times newspapers say is thought to include the private equity firm Carlyle, was revealed in a stock market announcement by the London-listed African based bank, Atlas Mara, which Mr Diamond formed in 2012 with Ashish Thakkar, an entrepreneur.

Atlas Mara Limited is a financial services holding company formed to undertake the acquisition of target banks in Africa with the objective of becoming a leading financial services group in the continent. Its motto is “We believe in sub-Saharan Africa’s potential.”

Barclays has an extensive presence in the East African region and the Times newspaper said recently that “among the countries he (Mr Diamond) may especially covet are Kenya, Ghana and Uganda.”

Barclays has around 769,000 customers in Kenya, its second largest market, 561,000 in Tanzania, its third largest and 136,000 in Uganda, its third smallest.

Barclays Africa generates about 20 per cent of its profits from its operations outside of South Africa, which include Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Botswana, Mauritius and Zambia.

The statement put out by Atlas Mara on Tuesday said: “In response to recent press reports regarding interest in purchasing Barclays Plc’s 62.3 per cent stake in Barclays Africa Group Limited, Atlas Mara Limited acknowledges that it has had discussions with a consortium of investors that is exploring an acquisition of Barclays’ stake in Barclays Africa. 

“Members of the Consortium include Atlas Merchant Capital, founded by Bob Diamond, and the Mara Group, founded by Ashish J. Thakkar. Atlas Mara’s Board of Directors supports the exploration of the potential combination, given the expected positive impact on accelerating the company’s strategy to build sub-Saharan Africa’s premier financial institution.”

Barclays said last month that it wanted to sell its South African arm to help reduce the complexity of the group and to save capital.

Barclays African operations are currently valued at around $3.6bn (£2.4bn). Atlas Mara, which has operations in seven African countries, also indicated that it expects to be taken over by the consortium in the event that a deal is struck.

“In the event that the consortium reaches a definitive agreement with Barclays in relation to Barclays Africa, it is expected that Atlas Mara will enter into substantive discussions about the potential combination with the consortium,” Atlas Mara said.

“Given the significant complexity and early stage of the discussions with the consortium, there can be no assurance that the transactions discussed above, including the potential combination, will be completed.”