FirstRand Bank Moves to Acquire Bridge Bank

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AMCON  CEO, Mr. Mustapha Chike-Obi

By Obinna Chima
South Africa’s FirstRand Bank has expressed interest in buying one of the three bridge banks wholly owned by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).

The banks are Keystone Bank Limited, Enterprise Bank Limited and Mainstreet Bank Limited.

Chief Executive Officer/Regional Head, West Africa, Rand Merchant Bank (RMB), a subsidiary of FirstRand, Mr. Michael Larbie, who said this in an exclusive interview with THISDAY, however declined to state the particular bank his institution planned to acquire.

Larbie said: “As you know, AMCON has recapitalised three of the banks and has hired advisers to advise them on what to do with them. We have expressed interest in the banks and there is no secret about it. If the process starts, we would be engaged in that process. But I will leave that with our group chief executive officer to talk about.”

FirstRand is South Africa’s second largest bank. Following the intervention by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2009, FirstRand had also expressed interest in one of nine banks that were rescued then.

CBN Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had said that the process for the sale of the three banks would commence June this year and is expected to end next year. On his part, AMCON’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Mustapha Chike-Obi had also assured that the process would be transparent.

Continuing, Larbie said that his bank was committed to the Nigerian economy, adding that its key strategic focus was to play in the banking industry.

He added: “Let me say that we did expressed interest in the rescued banks by the central bank then and we still remain interested. But FirstRand and RMB are committed to the Nigerian market. We believe it is a market we need to be in. It is a long-term play for us. We are not in Nigeria to stay for two or three and go away.

“This is part of our story, it is part of our evolution and we are going to be part of the Nigerian story for a very long time to come. We would be patient, we would be tenacious and we would play as long as it takes to take our rightful position in the financial services sector in Nigeria.”

Larbie noted that FirstRand’s strategy was to be a leading African financial services provider.

“We are a strong player in the South African market and if you look at Africa, the two giant economies are South Africa and Nigeria. So given our position in South Africa where we have done well, the next natural market for us is Nigeria.

“As RMB, one of the things that we are very good at is infrastructural financing. When you go to South Africa, a lot of the infrastructural developments in the country were driven by us. We are talking about multi-billion dollar projects. So, I think there room for other players who understand the sector to contribute to the enormous amount of money we believe is needed to support infrastructural growth and development in Nigeria,” he said