Bob Diamond.

Johannesburg - Bob Diamond, former chief executive officer of Barclays Plc, said his investment firm is seeking to acquire African financial-services companies that can help businesses manage currency and commodity risks on the continent.

Atlas Mara Co-Nvest Ltd. aims to make the first of a number of acquisitions within a year, Diamond told reporters today in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria.

While declining to comment on potential takeovers, he said his firm plans to tap its “operational expertise” after making purchases.

“This is very, very different from a private equity fund because it gives us an opportunity to be much more concentrated and to be really running a bank,” Diamond said.

“We’re operators more than investors.”

Diamond, who quit Barclays in July 2012 after the British bank admitted rigging global interest rates, and Ugandan entrepreneur Ashish Thakkar raised $325 million in an initial public offering for Atlas Mara in December.

They committed $20 million of their own money to the venture.

“My interest in Africa is long standing,” said Diamond, adding that the continent’s financial services industry needed to become more sophisticated. “It seems so clear to me that private sector growth is the single most important thing today that can help Africa continue to develop economically, create jobs and create economic growth.”

Atlas Mara will focus on getting loans to consumers and businesses, said Diamond, adding agricultural lending is an area of interest for his firm. - Bloomberg News