London - Atlas Mara, a new investment company backed by former Barclays boss Bob Diamond, had raised $325 million (R5.5 billion) by listing on the London Stock Exchange and planned to build a new financial services business in Africa, it said yesterday.
Diamond embarked on the venture after he was ousted from Barclays last year when the bank was fined $450m for alleged manipulation of the London interbank offered rate (Libor).
He and Africa-focused entrepreneur Ashish Thakkar invested a combined $20bn in Atlas Mara and said in a prospectus published yesterday that they saw significant gaps within Africa’s financial services sector, partly because European lenders quit the region after the financial crisis to focus on building capital to meet tougher regulations.
That presented an opportunity, they said, to make an acquisition that could be developed into a financial institution “to support economic growth and strengthen financial systems in Africa”.
The scope for growth in Africa is significant. Barely a quarter of sub-Saharan Africans have a bank account yet economic growth in the region is set to outpace the global average over the next three years, according to World Bank figures.
Arnold Ekpe, a former chief executive of pan-African lender Ecobank Transnational, will chair the board, which will include Diamond and Thakkar alongside Tonye Cole, a co-founder of Sahara Group, and Rachel Robbins, the lead lawyer for the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation.
Diamond left Barclays in July last year. It was the first bank fined for its involvement in Libor rate-rigging, but since then UBS, Royal Bank of Scotland and Rabobank have received bigger fines.
Diamond was praised for building up Barclays’ investment bank into a global power over more than a decade before taking over as chief executive in 2011. However, evidence of a strained relationship with regulators emerged after his departure, with former Bank of England governor Mervyn King saying the bank had been “sailing too close to the wind across a wide number of areas”.
Conditional dealing in Atlas Mara shares began yesterday. – Reuters