South Africa’s PIC Said to Support Ecobank CEO on Interim Board

South Africa’s Public Investment Corp. supports the creation of a new board of directors at Ecobank Transnational Inc. (ETI) that includes Chief Executive Officer Thierry Tanoh, said a person with knowledge of the matter.

The current board is seen as divisive and unable to make decisions, the person said, asking not to be identified before Ecobank’s extraordinary shareholder meeting votes on a new board on March 3 in Lome, Togo. Nozamo Petje, a spokeswoman for the PIC, the South African state pension fund manager that owns about 20 percent of Ecobank, declined to comment.

The new board would implement recommendations on corporate governance made by Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission, which probed allegations of senior management fraud. Four Ecobank executives, led by Deputy Group CEO Albert Essien, wrote to Chairman Andre Siaka on Feb. 11 requesting that Tanoh step down, Reuters reported Feb. 16, citing internal e-mails.

The proposed seven-member interim board also includes Siaka, representatives of Asset Management Corp. of Nigeria, the International Finance Corp. and the PIC, according to a meeting notice on Ecobank’s website. It doesn’t include Essien.

Asset Management Corp. of Nigeria is Ecobank’s second-biggest shareholder with 8.6 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Mwambu Wanendeya, a spokesman for Ecobank, declined to comment in an e-mailed response to questions.

SEC Probe

Nigeria’s regulator investigated Ecobank after Laurence do Rego, the lender’s former group executive director of risk and finance, told the SEC in August that Tanoh and former Chairman Kolapo Lawson planned to sell assets below market value. Do Rego said she was pressured to write off debts owed by a business headed by Lawson and manipulate the bank’s results. Both Tanoh and Lawson deny any wrongdoing.

Lawson, who retired on Dec. 31, said in October that he was stepping down to end uncertainty and “media speculation” over Ecobank.

Founded in 1985, Ecobank operates in France and 35 African countries and has representative offices in Beijing, Dubai and London. The bank had $21.5 billion in assets at the end of September.

To contact the reporters on this story: Chris Kay in Lagos at ckay5@bloomberg.net; Janice Kew in Johannesburg at jkew4@bloomberg.net

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

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