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Standard Bank plans to acquire a lender in Kenya by 2025

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Standard Bank Group Ltd., Africa’s biggest bank by assets, plans to acquire a lender in Kenya by 2025 as part of its growth strategy, according to the company’s East Africa Regional Chief Executive Patrick Mweheire.

The plan is for its Kenyan unit, Stanbic Holdings Plc, to grow through acquisition within two years, Mweheire said in an interview in the capital, Nairobi. Standard Bank wants to use the purchase to become one of the largest operations in a market dominated by local brands such as Equity Group Holdings Plc and KCB Group Plc.

“We have aspirations to be a top three bank in Kenya,” Mweheire said. “Number six is not acceptable. Within 12 months we would have identified and would have started having negotiations with someone,” he said.

Johannesburg-based Standard Bank has operations in five eastern Africa markets, including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo where it plans to add retail banking to its corporate business. It has a representative office in Ethiopia.

The firm will also seek a full license in Ethiopia once Africa’s second-most populous nation opens up its banking industry to foreign investors, Mweheire said.

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It “would have to buy something because organic growth doesn’t make sense” in Ethiopia, he said. “The problem with going organic is that you bleed for the first five to 10 years.”

Ethiopia May Allow Overseas Lenders to Own 30 percent of Local Banks

There are 25 commercial lenders serving Ethiopia’s 117 million people, according to World Bank data. The state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia holds assets worth 948.1 billion birr ($17.6 billion) and has about 15.9 million customers, according to information on its website.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they ask for $100 million to $200 million of capital to get anything done there,” Mweheire said, without giving further details.

Stanbic Holdings, which is 75 percent owned by Standard Bank, reported a 26 percent jump in full-year net income in 2022 from the previous period, with investment in government securities climbing 41 percent to 83.6 billion shillings (647 million) as it took advantage of rising interest rates.

“We expect the bank’s aggressive lending strategy to continue,” Nairobi-based Sterling Capital said in an emailed note.

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