Atlas Mara Said to Consider Bid for Stake in Mozambican Bank

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Atlas Mara Ltd., the company co-founded by Robert Diamond to invest in African financial businesses, is considering bidding for a stake in Mozambican lender Moza Banco SA, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

Atlas Mara, set up by the former Barclays Plc chief executive officer and Ugandan entrepreneur Ashish Thakkar, has been in talks with Moza Banco shareholders for as long as three months about a transaction, said one of the people, asking not to be identified as the negotiations are private.

Moza Banco is a consumer and commercial lender 51 percent-owned by local investors and 49 percent by Novo Banco SA, the Lisbon-based bank that emerged from the breakup of Banco Espirito Santo SA. Moza Banco, based in the capital, Maputo, is the fourth-largest bank in Mozambique with a 5.4 percent market share and 54 branches, according to its website. It has equity of about $62 million, according to its latest annual report.

Portugal is seeking a buyer for Novo Banco and any deal changing the ownership at Moza Banco would have to wait until that transaction is in place, according to a third person.

The Bank of Portugal’s Resolution Fund owns Novo Banco following a 4.9 billion-euro ($5.4 billion) rescue of Banco Espirito Santo in August. The central bank has invited five bidders to make binding offers for Novo Banco by the end of June. The proceeds will be used to repay the costs of the bailout.

Botswana, Zambia

Atlas Mara is already present in Mozambique through its acquisition of Gaborone, Botswana-based BancABC, which also operates in Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In January, Atlas Mara appointed a Mozambican, Eduardo Mondlane Jr., to its board.

Atlas Mara said in April it’s in exclusive talks to invest about $22.5 million in Banque Populaire du Rwanda and merge it with BRD Commercial Bank, creating one of the central African country’s largest lenders.

Thakkar declined to comment Monday when asked about a Moza Banco transaction in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Adam Yussof, a spokesman for Moza Banco in Maputo, didn’t respond to a request for comment that he asked be e-mailed to him.

Diamond, 63, quit as Barclays CEO in 2012 after the London-based bank was fined for manipulating benchmark interest rates.

(Adds when Diamond left Barclays in final paragraph.)
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