Barclays said to be front-runner for Mozambican Bank

Barclays Africa Group Ltd., the South African bank with operations across 12 countries on the continent, is the lead bidder for Mozambique’s Moza Banco SA, according to people familiar with the matter.

The central bank has received three proposals, which will be reviewed by an independent panel before the winner is announced in July, one of the people said, asking not to be named because the process is private. Barclays Africa’s existing operations in Mozambique are too small to give it a dominant position, so the acquisition will help it expand quickly, two other people said.

The purchase comes as bank failures in Mozambique mount with regulators ordering the liquidation of two lenders this month and the closure of O Nosso Banco in November. The central bank took over Moza Banco in September after administrative costs soared and the solvency ratio of the country’s fourth-biggest lender dropped to zero.

The regulator said in October it would stabilize Moza Banco and prepare it for sale. Since then, two state-owned companies failed to make payments on loans, inflation rose to almost 22 percent and debt costs soared amid a freeze on aid. Moza Banco’s investors couldn’t inject as much as $120 million in capital to save the lender, Zitamar News reported in February, citing a letter by Prakash Ratilal, the chairman of Mocambique Capitais, the lender’s majority shareholder.

Lisbon-based Novo Banco SA, which owns the remaining 49 percent of the bank, wasn’t immediately able to comment. Ratilal didn’t immediately respond to messages left at his Maputo office seeking comment. Barclays Africa, which has less than half a million customers in Mozambique, declined to comment.

‘Stepped Away’

Atlas Mara Ltd., the African financial services company co-founded by the former head of Barclays Plc, Bob Diamond, considered buying Moza Banco and then “stepped away,” Ashish Thakkar, Diamond’s fellow co-founder of Atlas Mara, said in an interview in Durban, South Africa last week, without giving more details.

The Bank of Mozambique ordered the winding down of Caixa Cooperativa De Credito SCRL on Wednesday after the lender requested authorization to terminate activities and cancel its license, the central bank said in an emailed statement. Last week, the regulator ordered the country’s Deposit Guarantee Fund to handle the liquidation of Microbanco Fides.

Source: Bloomberg

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