Home business Bob Diamond steps down as chairman of African banking group Atlas -...

Bob Diamond steps down as chairman of African banking group Atlas – Financial Times

Former Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond stepped down as chairman of Atlas Mara as the pan-African banking group he founded that it was reviewing the future of its operations.

Atlas Mara said on Wednesday that Mr. Diamond will remain a non-executive director at the group, which he floated in 2013 with ambitious plans to create an African banking giant. The Dubai-based investment vehicle has had an 85 per cent share price collapse.

"My belief in our ambition – to create a premier sub-Saharan African financial institution to better serve continental and global customers – is the foundation of the company," said Mr. Diamond.

But on Wednesday Atlas Mara has been retained Citi to review its operations.

The owner of banking groups from Botswana to Nigeria added that it had received "indications of interest for certain banking assets" and that it will sell off businesses that do not show signs of becoming leaders in their markets.

As well as stakes in lenders based in Botswana and Rwanda, the group owns 49 per cent or Nigeria's Union Bank.

Nigeria's banking sector has picked up investment for foreign buyers since the oil price collapse of 2014. Last year Carlyle, the US private equity group, puts its stake in the country at a rate of more than 90 per cent in the wake of its 2014 purchase.

"Nigeria remains a flagship market for Atlas Mara and is central to the company's overall strategy," Atlas Mara said on Wednesday.

The group also said it would buy a 35 per cent stake in South Africa's GroCapital from its key shareholder, Fairfax Africa, in order to access banking services in the continent's most financially sophisticated market.

Mr Diamond will be replaced by Michael Wilkerson, chief executive of Fairfax Africa, which is Atlas Mara's largest shareholder.

The former Barclays boss had only been appointed chairman or Atlas Mara's board on an interim basis, Atlas Mara said on Wednesday. Mr Diamond duties the role in October 2016.

The shake-up at the end of the group was a year to find a chief executive. South African banker John Staley took that role last April, filling a gap that had left empty since John Vitalo quit in February 2017 amid growing investor concerns about faltering performance and share price weakness. The group was also forced to cut costs and jobs following currency shocks in Africa in 2015.

Shares in Atlas Mara slipped 0.61 per cent in London trading to $ 1.64.

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