Bob Diamond of Atlas Mara still interested in Ghana … but denies ever showing interest in ADB

Bob Diamond

After an unsuccessful move to enter the Ghanaian market some three years ago, American businessman and financial expert Bob Diamond has told the B&FT he has not abandoned his plans, as he considers Ghana a very viable business destination.

“Our plans have always been to invest in 10 to 15 countries, and Ghana has always been one of them,” he told the B&FT in Dubai on the sidelines of the 2017 African Global Business Forum.

“We are always focused, as we just doubled our effort in Nigeria at the Union Bank. And, as I said, one of the countries we are looking to invest in the next few years is Ghana. We think that the emergence of the middle-class, technology – and on the business side production that will see final products being produced – is important,” he said.

“The Vice President [Dr. Bawumia, who is attending the forum] also being pro-jobs and growth for the economy is an opportunity for consolidation, and favourable for us to come into the market in the next two or three years.

“When I was at Barclays, one of our best countries was Ghana because it was an excellent bank in terms of even the number of customers, and also in terms of bottom line revenue. This, I know, makes Ghana a good destination to be in,” he added.

Although he denied ever making a US$50million attempt through one of his firms, Atlas Mara, to have a stake in ADB Bank, Bob Diamond expressed optimism about the resilience of Ghana’s financial market, disclosing his interest to come in to do business in the financial sector.

“I don’t really know ADB. If we were involved, I would never terminate; but I think there were a lot of rumours, and if there was anything that we were involved in I would come to the public with it,” said Mr. Diamond – considered one of the most controversial bankers to emerge from the financial crisis, and the man ousted as boss of Barclays Plc after a direct intervention by the Bank of England.

His denial is in sharp contrast to reports that suggested there was actually a deal, which fell through following resistance by the ADB workers union.

ADB/Atlas Mara MOU

The Agricultural Development Bank (adb) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Atlas Mara Limited for an initial equity investment of US$50million back in 2015.

This was contrary to earlier assertions by the bank that it would not have foreigners, or foreign companies, either participate or own shares in the bank’s quest to raise funds through an Initial Public Offer (IPO).

The MoU, which was signed on June 4, 2014 by the Managing Director of ADB Stephen Kpordzih, and Head of Corporate Development for Atlas Mara Limited, Kenory Dowers, had the ADB’s Board Secretary and vice president of Atlas Mara Limited as witnesses.

Under the terms of the agreement, Atlas Mara was to be given ordinary shares to the tune of 25% as part of the IPO, for which it demanded consent rights or significant influence in board appointments, CEO appointments, adb’s yearly budget, among others.

Meanwhile, Mr. Diamond – sharing his thoughts on regulation in the financial sector in Ghana – told the B&FT that: “I think strong regulation is important, because anybody who wants to invest in any market would want to be sure their investments are safe – and one way of doing that is strong regulation”.

He stressed that he and his firm are very interested in coming into Ghana to do business, and projected that within the next two to three years they are sure to come into the Ghanaian financial market with a higher minimum capital to foster consolidation.

By Norvan Acquah-Hayford l l Ghana

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