After entering South African market, Access Bank plans more

Access Bank Plc is said to be undergoing an expansion revolution and has been mentioned to be among the list of financial institutions from Africa and the Middle East that have expressed interest in the acquisition of Union Bank Plc and other African assets of Atlas Mara Group, a pan-African banking group.

Atlas Mara Limited, the London Stock Exchange-listed firm started by Mr. Bob Diamond, has received many approaches for its 49.97 percent holding in Union Bank of Nigeria.

Access Bank, it was gathered, is taking the lead on this. From a little bank in 2002, the Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe, the Managing Director, CEO and Co-Founder along with his business partner, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, by 2014, has transformed the bank which then was ranked 65th among 89 Nigerian banks.

Clearly, the news about Access Bank’s interest in Union Bank which came exactly a day after the former announced its completion of all regulatory procedures that led to the renaming of Grobank Limited as Access Bank South Africa Limited, showed that the Lagos-based financial institution has more markets to capture.

The deal was finalised after Access Bank’s acquisition of controlling shares in the former Grobank Limited, South Africa. With this acquisition, Access Bank South Africa Ltd is positioned to deliver a robust banking operation that connects key African markets.

During the official closing ceremony in Sandton recently, top executives of the two banks were upbeat about new opportunities for clients, noting that the bank will continue to support all its stakeholders while opening doors to growth opportunities both in the short and long term.

“We look forward to the many opportunities our collective experience and deep understanding of the African market brings to our valued clients, and the journey ahead being one of great promise for our institution and the continent,” said Wigwe.

Benefits for customers

On his part, the CEO of Grobank Bennie van Rooy said, “This is an extremely exciting day for the South African banking industry. Our corporate customers will now have increased access to trade finance, treasury, international payments and loans through the wider distribution network offered by Access Bank’s presence in the key trade corridors that connect Africa to the rest of the world.

“Banking with Access Bank South Africa means greater security as well as access to more products and services through a best-in-class digital platform, and a full retail banking suite will soon be on offer.”

Last month, Access Bank Plc also entered into a definitive and binding agreement with ABC Holdings Limited to acquire 78.15 percent shareholding in African Banking Corporation of Botswana Limited (BancABC Botswana).

The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approvals and customary conditions precedent is expected to close before the end of this quarter.

ABC Holdings is a subsidiary of London Stock Exchange-listed group – Atlas Mara Limited.

The South African country is renowned for its quality sovereign credit rating and stability.

Commenting on the deal, Wigwe said: “We remain committed to a disciplined and thoughtful expansion strategy in Africa, which we believe will create strong, sustainable returns for our shareholders and stakeholders at large, over the medium and long-term.

“The establishment of Access Bank through this acquisition in the Republic of Botswana will position the bank to deliver a more complete set of banking solutions to its clients in and across the SADC and COMESA regions.

“This transaction complements our recent strategic growth acquisitions in South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique. We are building a bank of the future that Africans across Africa and the world would be proud of and look forward to welcoming the employees, customers and other stakeholders of BancABC Botswana to Access Bank.”

Expansion plan through AfCFTA

In the string of expansion across the African continent – including Cameroon (operating license), Kenya (Transnational Bank), Zambia (Cavmont Bank), among others – the bank has said it intends to leverage the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA) to expand its footprint to 20 countries across the continent.

According to Wigwe, across Africa, there is opportunity for the bank to expand to high-potential markets, leveraging the benefits of AfCFTA.

He said AfCFTA, among other benefits, would expand intra-Africa trade and provide real opportunities for Africa.

Wigwe said the bank would use its office in London to expand representative offices in India, Lebanon and China.

He stated that the plan is for the bank to establish its presence in 22 African countries so as to diversify its earnings and take advantage of growth opportunities in Africa.

“We are diversifying our earnings away from volatile markets as well and we are orchestrating our operations from the global payments gateway and ensuring that using Access Bank UK, providing corresponding services from digital platforms, increases the overall profitability of our franchise,” he explained.

He also said the bank would use its digital framework to benefit from the AfCFTA deal.

“Coming to Nigeria, we think we need to continue to entrench ourselves in the local market because there is still so much work to be done.

“So, we are doing everything possible to satisfy our customers and also to ensure that our channels are adequately secured. We are also ensuring that our staff are very efficient,” the CEO said.

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