Diamond-Backed Atlas Mara Raises $325 Million in London IPO

Atlas Mara Co-Nvest Ltd., an African investment company started by former Barclays Plc Chief Executive Officer Bob Diamond and Ugandan entrepreneur Ashish Thakkar, raised $325 million in an initial public offering.

While acquisitions won’t be restricted to a particular industry or geography, the firm expects to focus on a financial services company with operations in Africa, Atlas Mara said a statement today. Citigroup Inc. was sole coordinator and bookrunner for the London IPO.

“There are significant gaps in the market today including the need for capital created by European financial institutions retreating to their home territories due to the sovereign debt crisis and the Basel III regulatory framework at a critical time for growth in Africa,” the company said in the statement.

Diamond, who quit Barclays in July 2012 after the British bank admitted rigging global interest rates, and Thakkar committed $20 million of their own money to the venture. Thakkar, who started his first technology company in Uganda at age 15, runs Mara Group, which has operations in 19 African countries.

Generate Returns

Atlas Mara will seek to generate returns through operational improvements at the target company and from possible complementary acquisitions, according to the statement. The acquired company will probably have operations in markets with strong underlying fundamentals, “clear broad-based growth drivers” and an established regulatory system, Atlas Mara said.

Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to accelerate to 6.1 percent in 2014 from an expected 5.6 percent this year, according to data from the International Monetary Fund. Investment is expected to rise to 23.2 percent of gross domestic product from 22.8 percent in this year, according to the data.

During his tenure as CEO, Diamond sought to boost Barclays’s profitability by combining its African operations with those of Absa Group Ltd., the South African lender in which it acquired a majority stake in July 2005.

Diamond Resigned

Diamond, who built Barclays’s investment bank into the world’s biggest global bond underwriter, resigned after the bank was fined 290 million pounds ($472 million) by U.S. and U.K. regulators for attempting to rig the London interbank offered rate. Diamond bought Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s North American operations in 2008, vastly expanding the investment bank’s international presence.

Barclays ran a proprietary trading fund that profited from the bank’s attempts to manipulate benchmark interest rates, the plaintiff in the U.K.’s first lawsuit linked to Libor misconduct said earlier this month. Guardian Care Homes, which is suing to rescind an interest-rate swap linked to Libor, made the allegation at a hearing Dec. 6, citing documents from a regulatory probe in Singapore. The company will call Diamond to testify at a trial next year in London.

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