Diamond’s Atlas Mara Said in Talks to Buy Ugandan Bank Stake

  • Atlas Mara values the bank at $250 million, says East African
  • Crane Bank made a 12.5 billion Ugandan shillings loss in 2015

Atlas Mara Ltd., the African financial services company co-founded by former head of Barclays Plc Bob Diamond, is in talks to acquire a stake in Uganda’s Crane Bank Ltd., a person familiar with the matter said.

The talks are at an early stage, the person said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private. Atlas Mara values the bank at $250 million, while Crane Bank says it’s worth $300 million, the Nairobi-based East African newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information.

Crane Bank, based in the capital, Kampala, said in September it was looking for a strategic equity investor with a regional or continental network. Atlas Mara operates in seven African countries and has said it wants to expand further. Diamond is taking over as interim chairman after Atlas Mara said last week that Arnold Ekpe would step down at the end of his three-year term in December. Diamond’s fellow co-founder, Ashish Thakkar, is Ugandan.

Discussions with any potential investor is bound by non-disclosure agreements, said Syed Raza Anwar, an executive director at Crane, who referred questions to the company’s managing director. Acting Managing Director PK Gupta wasn’t immediately available when Bloomberg called his office seeking comment and he didn’t immediately respond to e-mailed questions sent on Tuesday.

Annual Loss

Crane Bank is a closely held company controlled by Sudhir Ruparelia, who Forbes magazine describes as Uganda’s richest man. The lender, which has 46 branches in Uganda and two in Rwanda, was founded in 1995 and said in its 2015 annual report that it’s the fourth-largest bank in the country by assets. It made a loss of 12.5 billion Ugandan shillings ($3.6 million) last year as impairment charges almost quadrupled to 50.4 billion Ugandan shillings and operating expenses rose 43 percent to 103.7 billion Ugandan shillings.

Atlas Mara’s stock fell 0.8 percent in London trading on Tuesday, extending losses this month to 7.1 percent and giving the company a market value of $227 million.

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