PIC voices concerns about Ecobank chief executive

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Bloomberg

The Public Investment Corporation (PIC), the biggest shareholder in Ecobank Transnational, had concerns about the pan-African lender’s chief executive, Thierry Tanoh, it said yesterday.

“We have reservations about Thierry Tanoh,” PIC chief investment officer Daniel Matjila said.

The PIC, which owns more than 18 percent of Ecobank, according to the Lomé, Togo-based lender, was concerned about the bank’s performance under Tanoh, Matjila said, without being more specific.

Tanoh said he was in a meeting when called yesterday and asked to be called back in a few hours. Mwambu Wanendeya, a spokesman for Ecobank, declined to comment.

Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigated Ecobank after Laurence do Rego, the company’s former executive director of risk and finance, told the regulator in August last year that Tanoh and former chairman Kolapo Lawson planned to sell assets below market value. Do Rego said she was pressured to write off debts owed by a business headed by Lawson and manipulate the bank’s results. Both Tanoh and Lawson deny any wrongdoing.

Despite its reservations about Tanoh, Matjila said the PIC would support the creation of an interim board of directors that included Tanoh.

Shareholders will vote at a meeting on Monday on the proposal for a seven-member interim board, which will implement the SEC’s recommendations on corporate governance.

“We want a board that can work and move forward, so we are willing to make a concession,” said Matjila, who will also be on the board.

The interim board will hold office until the company’s annual general meeting, which will probably be in May or June, according to Ecobank spokesman Wanendeya.

The interim board will also include chairman Andre Siaka and representatives of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMC) and Ecowas Bank for Investment and Development, according to a notice on Ecobank’s website.

The IFC held about 6 percent of Ecobank directly and a further 8 percent indirectly, Wanendeya said. Nigeria’s AMC owned about 8.6 percent.

Nedbank Group chief executive Mike Brown said on Monday that the lender would consider governance issues before deciding whether to exercise an option to buy a stake in Ecobank. Nedbank has until the end of November to convert the $285 million loan it made to Ecobank in 2011 into an equity holding and then increase the stake to as much as 20 percent.

Ecobank shares rose 2.9 percent on Monday in Lagos. The stock has climbed 2.8 percent over the past 12 months compared with a 10 percent fall in the Nigerian Stock Exchange’s 10-company banking index.

Lawson, who retired on December 31, said in October that he was stepping down to end uncertainty and “media speculation” over Ecobank.

Founded in 1985, Ecobank operates in France and 35 African countries.


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