Rwanda banks merger takes Atlas Mara near the top

Atlas Mara Ltd plans to merge two Rwandan banks, subject to regulatory approval from the country’s central bank.

The London Stock Exchange-listed private equity fund is investing $21 million in Banque Populaire du Rwanda (BPR), which will be merged with  BRD Commercial Bank. Atlas Mara acquired BRD in October 2014.

Atlas Mara will hold about 62 per cent of equity of the combined entity — set to bear the Banque Populaire de Rwanda brand name — which will be valued at $325 million.

Atlas Mara chief executive officer John Vitalo said customers, employees and shareholders will benefit from the enhanced capital base, enlarged distribution network and expanded capabilities of the group.

“The combination of BPR and BRD Commercial, which will rank as the second largest bank in Rwanda by assets, is consistent with Atlas Mara’s strategy of being a participant in its countries of operation,” he said.

BRD Commercial, which offers retail banking products, mortgages and long-term financing products to customers, was carved out of Development Bank of Rwanda Ltd (BRD) after internal reorganisation.

Banque Populaire du Rwanda was founded in 1975 when the people of Nkamba, a village in the current Eastern Province, created a savings and credit co-operative to enhance livelihoods of members. It became a fully fledged bank in 2008, retaining its co-operative roots.

BPR has 191 branches and about 1,370 employees. By December 31, 2014, it had a loan book of $155 million, and $181 million in deposits. BPR’s shareholders have granted authority to the board of directors to negotiate the terms of the merger.

Mr Vitalo said the acquisition and the proposed merger of BPR with BRD Commercial Bank is informed by Rwanda’s potential to become a regional financial services hub.

“We remain optimistic about Rwanda’s prospects despite headwinds currently being experienced by many other African economies, and we are supportive of the country’s efforts to become East Africa’s financial services hub,” he said.

The merger will provide Atlas with a platform to leverage mobile technology to provide differentiated products and meet demand for corporate credit through integration and resulting cost synergies.

“We are confident in the experience, innovation-orientation and capital that Atlas Mara will bring to bear to the benefit of all of BPR’s stakeholders,” said BPR chairman Ben Christiaanse.

Completion of the deal is subject to binding legal agreements and regulatory approvals expected before the end of the year.

Atlas Mara has also reached an agreement to acquire 100 per cent  of Finance Bank of Zambia (FBZ), subject to regulatory approvals.

FBZ is Zambia’s sixth largest bank, with 63 branches and over 800 employees.  By June 30, it was valued at $261 million in assets, $127 million in loans, $181 million in deposits and $59 million in equity.

“The acquisition of FBZ is another important step in the execution of Atlas Mara’s strategy to build sub-Saharan Africa’s premier financial institution, in part by becoming a scale participant in our countries of operation,” Mr Vitalo said.

SOURCE: THE EAST AFRICAN