Nigeria’s Access Bank launches bids to acquire Atlas Mara Assets
Nigeria’s Access Bank is in talks about a potential acquisition of assets belonging to Bob Diamond’s Atlas Mara Ltd. to expand its reach in the rest of Africa, according to a report by Bloomberg on Wednesday.
Access Bank is interested in Atlas Mara’s businesses in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. Deliberations are in preliminary stages and no final decision has been made, they said.
If successful, Atlas Mara will be left with its largest investment, a 49.97 percent stake in Union Bank of Nigeria, which gives it a footprint in Africa’s largest economy.
A deal would also mark the second transaction between Atlas Mara and Access Bank after lender agreed to buy its Mozambique unit at the end of September.
Atlas Mara Limited, formerly referred to as Atlas Mara Co-Nvest Limited, is a financial services holding company with headquarters in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, formed to undertake the acquisition of target banks in Africa.
Representatives for Atlas Mara and Access Bank declined to comment. Zambia was listed among the company’s discontinued operations in its first-half earnings report.
Atlas Mara, which has lost 96 percent of its value since listing on the London Stock Exchange in 2013, is exiting markets or seeking partners in countries where it doesn’t see opportunities to bulk up or make money. The firm last week agreed to sell its Rwandan and Tanzanian units to Kenya’s KCB Group Plc.
Atlas Mara said last week that it is in talks with principal holders of $81 million of convertible bonds due Dec. 31 and other creditors “regarding a range of options to address the upcoming debt maturities.”
The break up of the company comes after Diamond, 69, misjudged competition and overpaid for acquisitions, with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic accelerating the need to reposition Atlas Mara.
The former Barclays executive, who was an African bull even during his days with the London-based lender, was replaced as chairman early last year by Michael Wilkerson, the chairman of Fairfax Africa, which owns 49% of the firm.