Diamond’s Atlas Mara Posts Loss on Currencies, Zimbabwe Debt

  • Shares slip; company gives no update on Barclays Africa bid
  • CEO Vitalo says performance “below where we want to be”

Atlas Mara Ltd., the African finance company co-founded by former Barclays Plc boss Bob Diamond, posted a loss for the first quarter and said its full-year profit target faced “meaningful” challenges. Its shares fell.

The firm, incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and traded in London, reported a loss of $2 million for the three months ending March 31, excluding one-time items and costs tied to mergers and acquisitions, compared with a profit of $9 million for the same period last year, according to a statement Thursday. Atlas Mara lost $6.7 million including those items, compared with a profit of about $500,000 a year ago.

The firm didn’t provide any update on its potential bid for Barclays’s controlling stake in its African business, which Diamond had championed when he ran the British lender. Diamond said last month that he and investors including U.S. private-equity giant Carlyle Group were working together on a possible deal.

Atlas Mara, set up by Diamond to buy African banks as part of his wager on the continent’s prospects, is dealing with the impact of a weaker Chinese economy on the commodity prices that are key for growth in most African countries. Declining African currencies helped cause the quarterly loss, along with higher provisions for souring corporate loans in Zimbabwe, the firm said.

“This level of performance is clearly below where we want to be, notwithstanding the challenges of a more difficult economic backdrop,” Chief Executive Officer John Vitalo said in the statement.

The shares fell 2 percent to $4.85 at noon in London, and are down 7.6 percent this year. Atlas Mara has lost more than half of its value since its initial public offering at the end of 2013.

While Atlas Mara continues to target a full-year result that exceeds 2015’s profit of $11.3 million, that goal is facing “meaningful headwinds” of weaker African currencies and a “more challenging economic backdrop,” the company said.

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