Picture: Armand Hough/ANA/African News Agency
JOHANNESBURG - A shortlist of potential buyers of Mercantile Bank has been approved by the Portuguese government.

The list of four shortlisted buyers comprises of the Nedbank Group, Capitec Bank and a consortium including the state pension fund, the Public Investment Corporation(PIC). The go-ahead by the Portuguese government allows the sale process to move towards the second phase.

Mercantile is owned by the Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD). CDG is a state-owned banking and financial services group and it is the biggest bank in Portugal.

In total 18 non-binding offers were received for Mercantile, the bank-controlling company and sole shareholder of Mercantile Bank Limited, a niche business and commercial bank that specialises in serving entrepreneurs.

In 2017, CDG announced that they will be selling Mercantile as a part of a European Commission approved plan that required CDG to cut down their foreign asses.

Mercantile is 100% owned by CDG.

The shortlist was approved after all of the non-binding offers went through a thorough evaluation process by CDG and their advisors.

The following buyers were selected based on the criteria set out in the Portuguese Decree-Law No. 153/2017 of 28 December 2017 which approved the sale process. The criteria included items like price, financial capacity and strategy amongst other things.

Here the shortlisted buyers:

1. A consortium made up if Arise B.V. and Grindrod Bank Limited. The first company is an African investment company that is backed by shareholders like Norfund, a Norwegian investment fund for developing countries; FMO, a Dutch development bank; and Rabobank, Dutch cooperative bank.
2. Capitec Bank Limited which is South Africa's largest retail bank based on the amount of customers that use it as their main bank. It has a market capitalisation of more than R101 billion and the PSG Group as their biggest shareholder.
3. Nedbank Group Limited is the biggest bank in the country ranked by assets. It has a market capitalisation of more than R140 million with Old Mutual plc as their major shareholder
4. A consortium made up of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and Bayport Financial Services (Pty) Limited The PICis Africa's largest asset manager. They manage public sector funds that are worth more than R1,9 trillion. Bayport is one of the largest non-bank providers of unsecured credit and allied products in South Africa.

The buyers mentioned above will now be allowed to conduct a due diligence process on Mercantile that includes a full-day strategic engagement with Mercantile's Board and management. This will be followed by submissions of binding offers.

The CEO of Mercantile, Karl Kumbier said "I am excited that each of these potential buyers could open up new opportunities for Mercantile and add great value to our business, just as we can add great value to theirs".