Nigeria’s Amcon Says No Agreement Made With Ecobank Chairman

The Asset Management Corp. of Nigeria, created to buy lenders’s bad debts, said it’s in advanced discussions with Ecobank Transnational Inc. (ETI) Chairman Kolapo Lawson following a report that he had fallen behind on loan repayments.

Amcon, as the government agency is known, has yet to reach an agreement with Lawson over debts owed, Kayode Lambo, a spokesman for Amcon said by telephone today from Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, declining to comment further. Lawson said by e-mail that he’s reached an agreement with Amcon officials, which he understands is subject to the agency’s board approval.

Ecobank, Africa’s most geographically diverse bank, said yesterday that Lawson had reached an agreement with Amcon. The Central Bank of Nigeria informed the lender in April that Lawson failed to honor a pledge to repay debt owed to the agency, the London-based Financial Times newspaper reported on July 16, citing documents it had seen.

“Ecobank has confirmed that the matters concerning Mr. Lawson’s dealings with Amcon have been discussed at the board and, we understand, Mr. Lawson has reached an agreement with Amcon on this issue,” the Lome, Togo-based lender said in an e-mailed statement.

Ecobank owes Abuja-based Amcon 1.2 billion naira ($7.4 million), the Financial Times reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. Agbara Estate, whose chairman is Lawson, has “long outstanding” debts of 1.6 billion naira with Ecobank’s Nigerian unit, the newspaper said. South Africa’s Public Investment Corp., the lender’s biggest shareholder, yesterday urged Ecobank resolve the dispute.

Fully Secured

“The loan to Agbara Estates, which is not yet due to be paid, was contracted between two management teams acting at arm’s length in the ordinary course of business, and was completed well before I became chairman of the ETI Group,” Lawson said earlier in an e-mailed statement today. “It is fully secured by a real estate project which has since increased in value and the overall value of the project is significantly higher than the loan. The board has every assurance that the loan will be paid off before its due date.”

Lawson doesn’t have a personal loan with Ecobank, the lender said in its statement. Companies on which he serves as a director have “business relations” with the lender and one of them has a “contracted loan facility” which is secure and the current repayment schedule is not yet due, Ecobank said.

Ugochukwu Okoroafor, a spokesman for the Nigerian central bank, declined to comment.

Debt Crisis

Amcon, which according to data compiled by Bloomberg owns 10.7 percent of Ecobank, was set up in 2010 after a debt crisis threated the collapse of Nigeria’s banking industry.

Founded in 1985, Ecobank has expanded operations to 33 African countries and France, with representative offices in Beijing, Dubai, Johannesburg, London and Luanda, Angola. Its assets totaled $19.6 billion at the end of March.

Ecobank’s shares trading in Nigeria were unchanged at 15 naira at the 2:30 p.m. close in Lagos, the commercial capital. Ecobank stock has increased 33 percent this year, giving the company a market value of 192.4 billion naira. The 10-member Nigerian Stock Exchange Banking 10 Index has climbed 25 percent.

To contact the reporters on this story: Chris Kay in Abuja at ckay5@bloomberg.net; Eric Ombok in Nairobi at eombok@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Vernon Wessels at vwessels@bloomberg.net; Shaji Mathew at shajimathew@bloomberg.net

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