PIC Urges Ecobank to Deal With Chairman’s Debt Dispute

The Public Investment Corp., the biggest shareholder in Ecobank Transnational Inc. (ETI), urged the largest bank by branches in Africa to resolve a dispute involving businesses associated with Chairman Kolapo Lawson.

“We have written a letter to the board of directors, a confidential letter, requesting the board to quickly find time and space to discuss this matter so we can resolve it properly,” Daniel Matjila, the chief investment officer of the Pretoria-based PIC, said by phone today. The PIC didn’t ask that the chairman be replaced, he said.

The Central Bank of Nigeria informed Ecobank in April that Lawson failed to honor a pledge to repay debt owed to the Asset Management Corp. of Nigeria, the London-based Financial Times newspaper reported today, citing documents it has seen. Ecobank owes Amcon 1.2 billion naira ($7.4 million) and Agbara Estates, of which Lawson is the chairman, owes it 1.6 billion naira, the FT said, citing people familiar with the matter.

The PIC, which manages more than 1 trillion rand ($101 billion) mostly on behalf of South African civil servants, bought 20 percent of Lome, Togo-based Ecobank in April last year. Nedbank Group Ltd. (NED), a South African bank controlled by London-based Old Mutual Plc (OML), has an option to buy 20 percent of Ecobank in November. Nedbank Chief Executive Officer Mike Brown declined to comment in an e-mailed response to questions.

Ecobank CEO Thierry Tanoh didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request seeking comment. Austin Osokpo, a spokesman of Ecobank Nigeria, referred questions to the head office in Togo. Nabi Souleymane Ouedraogo, the company’s spokesman, isn’t available, said a person who answered a call to Ecobank’s headquarters in Lome.

Ecobank’s shares have increased 33 percent this year through yesterday’s close in Lagos, Nigeria for a market value of 192.5 billion naira. The 10-member Nigerian Stock Exchange Banking 10 Index has increased 25 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jaco Visser in Johannesburg at avisser3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vernon Wessels at vwessels@bloomberg.net

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