FirstRand Bank fails to gain West African foothold

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South Africa’s FirstRand Group’s plan to acquire a 75 per cent stake in Merchant Bank Ghana for about 750 million rand has failed.

“FirstRand Bank has been consistent in its commitment to want to expand in sub-Saharan Africa. I guess even if asked to go back to the drawing board and review its parameters, I should imagine that something will get down eventually,” Rele Adesina, Head of Research at Stanbic IBTC told CNBC Africa on Monday.

The financial services provider’s bid was turned down last week, yet another failed attempt for it to tap into the West African market after failed talks to buy Nigeria’s Sterling Bank in 2011.

“I think there’s a perception that the price that Standard Bank paid for its own foray into West Africa was really big and so as a result FirstRand in its outing has kind of been emphatic about its desire to ensure that it strikes a deal at the right price,” said Adesina.

Adeisina said the FirstRand Group has the capability to bed down suitable transactions in any African country but perhaps setting eyes on markets that are looking for attractive valuations at entry level.

“Given all the noise around West Africa and around players wanting to enter that space perhaps it is perceived that they won’t be short of suitors and can, therefore, afford to holdout for the most determined potential acquirer,” she added.

Adeisina said she’s not aware of global players attempting to expand footprint in Nigeria’s financial sector except for Barclays Bank, which is already owning space through Absa Bank. 

“I’m not sure that global players are looking as keenly to this market as the South Africans right now,” Adeisina noted.

“Obviously Barclays is somewhat different through Absa, we should probably see some attempts to expand there as they have an established Africa strategy as it is so. It’s not a novel move but in terms of guys that are relatively non-present or green in the South African space I’m not aware of global banks looking to push in.”

FirstRand Limited, also referred to as First Rand Group or as FirstRand Bank, is an integrated financial services group providing a comprehensive range of products and services to the South African market since 1998.