Analysis & Comment

Nigeria's expanding Access Bank buys Atlas Mara's BancABC stake

ABUJA (Reuters) -Nigeria’s biggest lender Access Bank has agreed to buy a majority stake in African Banking Corporation of Botswana for cash, a month after acquiring a South African bank.

Access Bank is expanding across the African continent to counter stagflation and dollar shortages in Nigeria that have frustrated businesses, shrinking the lending market.

The Nigerian bank will acquire just over 78% of BancABC Botswana for an undisclosed cash sum of around 1.13 times book value as well as a two-year deferred payment, Atlas Mara said in a statement on Monday.

The deal with ABC Holdings, the local unit of London-listed Atlas Mara, expands Access Bank’s African presence to 10 countries. It is expected to close before the end of the second quarter.

Access Bank shares fell 1.32% to 7.50 naira. They have fallen 36% from a peak of 11.77 naira in January last year, before it acquired Kenya’s Transnational Bank.

“We remain committed to a disciplined and thoughtful expansion strategy in Africa, which we believe will create strong, sustainable returns,” Access Group Chief Executive Herbert Wigwe said.

BancABC is Botswana’s fifth largest bank and has a quality retail loan book with the scope for expansion into corporate and small to medium-sized enterprise lending, Access said.

Nigerian lenders have been seeking new ways to boost profit amid slow economic growth at home, a drop in government bond yields and a rise in restructured loans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Access Bank bought a controlling stake in South Africa’s Grobank for around $60 million in March, becoming the first Nigerian lender to venture into South Africa. It has also struck recent deals in Zambia and Mozambique.

With more than $16 billion of assets and a focus on corporate and retail banking, Access is restructuring into a holding company to drive its international expansion.

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