16 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Ecobank Indigenised, Targets Increasing Market Share

ECOBANK International (Ecobank)'s newly appointed chief executive officer Thierry Tanoh has said its local unit, Ecobank Zimbabwe, would increase its market share this year, despite competition from the traditional banks which have been depositors' safe havens in a volatile market.

Addressing a press conference soon after arriving in Zimbabwe on Wednesday last week, Tanoh said Ecobank Zimbabwe, which had been indigenised and would "continue to be compliant with the country's laws", was on a growth trajectory.

The bank, which closed its trading year with nine branches last year, would increase its presence on the local market, he said.

"Market share will be increased in Zimbabwe this year. We are young but very ambitious. As we speak, if a tremendous opportunity comes by, we'll grab it right away to add value to the group," Tanoh said.

"We have complied with the new capital requirements, we are compliant. We have ambitions to grow and gain market share in Zimbabwe," said Tanoh.

"There are some banks in the country that have benefitted from historical positioning but we are ambitious and young. Right now we are really focusing on organic growth," he said.

Tanoh was appointed Ecobank Group CEO at the end of 2011, replacing Arnold Ekpe who retired in 2012 after serving the group for over 10 years.

Tanoh said one of his goals this year includes mapping the growth of the Pan African group's Zimbabwe unit, among other key things.

In a statement, Ecobank Zimbabwe said Tanoh's first visit to the region and Zimbabwe was a reflection of a vote of confidence by the Ecobank Group in the Zimbabwean market.

Ecobank shareholders recently injected an additional US$15 million into Ecobank Zimbabwe in order to meet the deadline for compliance with the additional capital requirements of US$25million by December 31, 2012 as set out by the central bank.

"Tanoh's visit is seen as reaffirmation of the Ecobank Group's commitment and earlier pronouncements to strengthen its capacity to support the Zimbabwean economy," reads the statement.

"Henceforth, Ecobank Zimbabwe will continuously strive to play a prominent role in the financial integration and development of the Zimbabwean through its focus and expertise in Africa and using its unrivalled network of 33 affiliate countries on the continent," said Ecobank Zimbabwe.

Tanoh met the local board of directors for Ecobank Zimbabwe Limited, key government ministers, regulators, customers, staff of the bank before proceeding to other Ecobank Affiliates in the region.

In 2010, Ecobank - which has operations in 32 countries - bought a 70 percent stake in the then Premier Finance Group and renamed the financial institution Ecobank Zimbabwe Limited (EZL).

Ecobank has in the past two years injected US$19,8 million into EZL. Tanoh's visit comes a week after the expiry of the central bank's recapitalisation deadline.

EZL has indicated that it would meet the revised capital requirements set by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe compelling commercial banks to have US$100 million as minimum capital by June 2014.

In the six months to June 30, 2012, Ecobank posted a US$133 000 post tax profit recovering from a US$1,4 million loss registered same period prior year spurred by incomes growth.

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