The company founded and run by former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond has confirmed that it is in talks with Barclays about buying some of the bank’s assets in Africa.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Atlas Mara, co-founded by Diamond, says that it is “exploring an acquisition” of Barclays’ stake in the bank’s African unit.
Speculation in the markets has been rife that Diamond and his partner Ashish Thakkar will bid to buy part of Barclays’ African unit, after the bank said in March that it would sell down its 62% stake in Barclays’ Johannesburg listed business thanks to rising regulatory pressures. The unit is worth around 122 billion South African rand (£5.9 billion $8.5 billion) in market cap.
The potential sale is part of a larger programme of consolidation from Barclays, as new chief executive Jes Staley looks to focus on the bank’s central businesses in the UK and the USA.
Atlas Mara, founded by Diamond and billionaire Thakkar, says it wants to be “sub-Saharan Africa’s premier financial institution” and would use any acquisition of Barclays’ assets to gain a foothold in the notoriously fragmented African banking sector.
Here’s what Atlas Mara had to say in a statement released on Tuesday (emphasis ours):
In response to recent press reports regarding interest in purchasing Barclays Plc’s (“Barclays”) 62.3% stake in Barclays Africa Group Limited (“Barclays Africa”), Atlas Mara Limited (“Atlas Mara” or the “Company”) acknowledges that it has had discussions with a consortium of investors (the “Consortium”) that is exploring an acquisition of Barclays’ stake in Barclays Africa and a potential combination of Atlas Mara with Barclays Africa (the “Potential Combination”). Members of the Consortium include Atlas Merchant Capital, founded by Bob Diamond, and the Mara Group, founded by Ashish J. Thakkar.
Atlas Mara’s Board of Directors supports the exploration of the Potential Combination, given the expected positive impact on accelerating the Company’s strategy to build sub-Saharan Africa’s premier financial institution. Atlas Mara’s Board has taken advice from external legal counsel with respect to various corporate governance matters. In the event that the Consortium reaches a definitive agreement with Barclays in relation to Barclays Africa, it is expected that Atlas Mara will enter into substantive discussions about the Potential Combination with the Consortium.
The Financial Times reports that the “consortium of investors” mentioned in Atlas Mara’s statement contains Atlas Merchant Capital, a firm founded by Diamond, and the Mara Group, founded by Thakkar.
While Atlas Mara confirmed the talks, it was clear in stating that there is a strong possibility no deal will be completed, adding: “Given the significant complexity and early stage of the discussions with the Consortium, there can be no assurance that the transactions discussed above, including the Potential Combination, will be completed.”
Diamond left Barclays in the wake of the 2012 Libor rate-rigging scandal, and has been relatively quiet since then. He is not the only former senior Barclays executive getting involved in new areas of business however, and in February, it was announced that Rich Ricci, a former right-hand man of Diamond’s, would be joining online FX firm freemarketFX, as chairman.