Qatar’s QNB Buys Stock to Become Top Ecobank Shareholder

Qatar National Bank SAQ, the Middle East’s biggest lender by market value, bought stock in Togo-based Ecobank Transnational Inc. for the second time this month to become its top shareholder with a 23.5 percent stake.

The Doha-based lender purchased an additional 11 percent stake in Ecobank for $283 million, according to a statement to the local Qatari bourse today. The bank said Sept. 4 it bought a 12.5 percent stake in Ecobank valued at about $230 million.

The Qatari bank is pushing into Africa as competition in its home market of 2 million people curbs profitability. Its net interest margin fell to 2.9 percent in the second quarter from 3.2 percent in the first, data compiled by Bloomberg shows. Consolidation in the African banking market is increasing as firms including former Barclays Plc Chief Executive Officer Robert Diamond’s Atlas Mara Co-Nvest scout for deals.

“I think QNB will go for the entire bank,” Jaap Meijer, an analyst at Arqaam Capital in Dubai, said today by phone. “They can afford it. It’s less than $2 billion market cap and QNB is $40 billion market cap. It’s easy for them to finance.”

Nedbank Group Ltd., the South African lender controlled by Old Mutual Plc, said Sept. 9 it remains committed to its partnership with Ecobank. Johannesburg-based Nedbank formed an alliance with Ecobank in 2008 and has the option until Nov. 25 of gaining a 20 percent stake that would give it access to bank customers in more than 30 African countries.

Ecobank advanced 2.6 percent to 19.82 naira at the close in Lagos, the highest since May 2010. QNB Capital LLC, the Qatari lender’s investment banking unit, and Morgan Stanley advised on the latest deal, it said.

South Africa’s Public Investment Corp. has a stake of more than 18 percent in Ecobank, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Atlas Mara started trading on the London Stock Exchange’s main market last month. The company, which raised $325 million in an initial public offering last year, has been expanding through stakes such as in the Development Bank of Rwanda and ABC Holdings Ltd.

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