29 November 2012

South Africa: Firstrand Secures Foothold in Nigeria

South African banking group FirstRand says it aims to become a major player in Nigeria after its subsidiary, Rand Merchant Bank, secured an investment banking licence from the Central Bank of Nigeria.

FirstRand CEO Sizwe Nxasana said in a statement on Monday that FirstRand sought to build a presence in high-growth African markets with attractive long-term prospects.

"This move is consistent with our strategy, as we often enter a new market through the appropriate operating franchise, in this case RMB, and the rest of the banking group may then follow," Nxasana said in a statement.

"Nigeria currently offers strong growth prospects, particularly with regards to corporate and investment banking," he added.

RMB has been operating from a representative office in Nigeria since January 2010, and chief executive Alan Pullinger said the licence - which required an initial capital investment of US$100-million from the company - would "allow us to significantly scale up our in‐country offering".

"Nigeria as a country and the west African region as a whole are experiencing significant growth," Pullinger noted.

This is FirstRand's second recent foray into west Africa. The group is currently finalising the acquisition of Merchant Bank Ghana for almost R750-million, and according to Business Day would be keen to link up its planned retail and investment banking operations in both countries.

For now, RMB Nigeria's Lagos office "will provide corporate advisory services, equity capital markets, infrastructure and project finance, resource finance, structured trade and commodity finance, and fixed income, currency and commodity services to large local, regional and international corporates already operating in or entering Nigeria and the broader west African economies".

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