Access Bank Plc is negotiating the potential acquisition of assets held by Bob Diamond's Atlas Mara Ltd. Nigeria's largest lender is looking to expand its reach to the rest of Africa, according to people familiar with the matter.
Lagos-based Access Bank is interested in Atlas Mara's business in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. The discussion is at a preliminary stage, and no final decision has been made on it, they said.
If successful, Atlas Mara will receive its largest investment, a 49.97% stake in Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, giving it a place in Africa's largest economy. The deal will also mark the second deal between Atlas Mara and Access Bank after a Nigerian lender agreed to buy its Mozambique subsidiary at the end of September.
Atlas Mara and Access Bank declined to comment. Zambia was listed in the company's discontinued operations in the first half of the year.
Atlas Mara, which has lost 96% of its value since listing on the London Stock Exchange in 2013, is leaving the markets or looking for partners in countries where it sees no wholesale or earning opportunities. The firm last week agreed to sell its Rwandan and Tanzanian operations to Kenya's KCB Group Plc.
Access Bank plans to have a presence in 22 African countries over the next five years and currently operates in Sierra Leone, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zambia and Congo. He recently invested in South African lender Grobank Ltd., which considers Fairfax Africa Holdings Corp. one of its shareholders, while Chief Executive Officer Herbert Wigwe said he is also targeting growth in Angola, Senegal, Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire.
Atlas Mara announced last week that it is in talks with holders of $ 81 million in convertible bonds maturing on December 31 and other creditors "regarding a range of options for the upcoming debt maturity."
The collapse of the company came after the 69-year-old Diamond underestimated the competition and overpaid for acquisitions, and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic hastened the need to reorient Atlas Mara.
The former Barclays CEO, who was an African bull even during his time with the London lender, was replaced as chairman by Michael Wilkerson, chairman of Fairfax Africa, who owns 49% of the firm, early last year.