Ecobank open to new acquisitions

HARARE - Togo-based transnational banking group Ecobank says it remains open to new acquisition opportunities in Zimbabwe.

“We have a flexible strategy, we don’t rule out anything. If an opportunity presents itself to acquire a bank, we will look at it,” said Arnold Ekpe, Ecobank group chief executive.

“You might not know but as a group we have carried out 14 acquisitions in the last five years.”

The banking executive said the Zimbabwe’s financial services sector had great prospects for growth and the group was strategically positioned to take advantage of opportunities.

“The banking sector has huge potential since you are coming out of difficult position.

“As it is now we see huge opportunities in the country,” Ekpe said.

He said the local banking sector was still growing, a position that allowed Ecobank to increase its current market share.

“Zimbabwe is not over banked. There is still a long way to go in the market for financial services as this industry will grow significantly,” Ekpe said, adding that, “Our strategy is to be in the top three locally. That’s our absolute plan. In the next five years we see ourselves being a leading bank in this market.”

Ekpe said Ecobank will comply with the indigenisation regulations with its local partners, Brainworks Capital Management, increasing shareholding in the bank to 36,9 percent.

“Nobody questions the practice as most African countries have adopted such a policy. The principle is right. The only concern is how it’s done as there is a lot of confusion,” the Ecobank boss said.

Daniel Sackey, Ecobank Zimbabwe managing director, added that they had completed its transition from a merchant to a commercial bank.

“This was done through investment infrastructure, people, systems and capital,” Sackey said.

“We will continue to build upon these achievements to ensure that the bank provides customers with convenience and reliable banking products and services.”

In 2011, Sackey said the bank’s shareholders injected $12,3 million in fresh capital while credit lines worth $35 million were mobilised from Afreximbank, Mashreq Bank and other affiliates to support regional trade finance.

He said Ecobank became profitable from the second quarter of 2012.

The bank registered a $200 000 after tax profit in the half year to June 2012 recovering from a $1,5 million loss incurred in corresponding period last year.

The improvement, Ecobank said, was mainly attributable to 77 percent growth in the loan book to $62,4 million since June last year.

“Increased fees and commissions backed by a more than three-fold increase in the number of customer accounts since June last year have responded positively to Ecobank’s value proposition and the increasing diverse product offering,” the financial institution said.

Year-on-year net revenues grew by 164 percent to $5 million, outpacing increases in operating expenses which went up 35 percent.

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