Kenya's Equity Bank to Acquire Congolese Lender At $105 Million

Regional lender Equity Group is in the final stages of completing its takeover of the Banque commercial du Congo, (BCDC).

This follows an agreement with the majority shareholder - George Arthur Forrest and family - to acquire all the 625,354 shares (66.53 per cent) owned by the Belgian at a cost of $105 million.

The price of the transaction includes dividends declared after January 1, 2019 in respect of the financial year ending December 31, 2019, meaning cum-dividend price per share of $ 167.9 per share.

However, Equity's stock on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) declined by 0.94 per cent at 12.25 pm Tuesday to Ksh47.50($0.475) per share from Ksh47.95 ($0.479) on Monday as news of the lender's proposed Congolese acquisition filtered through the investment circles.

In a statement Tuesday, Equity Bank Chief Executive James Mwangi said the acquisition provides more impetus for the Kenyan-based lender to push ahead with its dream of converting into a pan African bank by 2024.

"This is an opportunity for the Group to take further steps towards the delivery of its vision of building sub-Saharan Africa's premier financial institution through delivering innovative products and services to customers, including, in particular, the effective use of technology," said Dr Mwangi.

APPROVALS

The transaction is still subject to regulatory approvals including the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), Banque Centrale du Congo, the COMESA Competition Commission (CCC) and the board approvals of BCDC and Equity Group Holdings.

The BCDC is majority owned by George Arthur Forrest and family (66.53 per cent) and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (25.53 per cent) while the remaining 7.94 per cent shares are owned by other minority shareholders.

Currently Equity bank, with more than 14 million customers, has 289 branches across the region with operations in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan and the DRC.

In September this year, the lender announced plans to strengthen its subsidiary in DRC by acquiring BCDC and merging its business with the Equity Bank Congo S.A (EBC).

The BCDC is the second largest lender in DRC by assets estimated at $700 million.

Equity already has operations in DRC through a subsidiary it established by acquiring 86 per cent stake in Pro Credit Bank, the then seventh largest bank in the country by assets exceeding $200 million and a customer base of over 170,000, between 2015 and 2017.

But the lender has also proposed to increase its shareholding in EBC S.A by acquiring an additional 7.6 per cent of the shares currently held by the German state-owned development bank, KfW.

The proposed acquisition is also subject to the approval of Banque Centrale du Congo.

If the acquisition is approved, it will effectively push Equity Bank's shareholding in EBC S.A to about 94 per cent, with the remaining six (6) per cent left in the hands of the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

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