Buyer of Atlas Mara Nigerian Lender Targets Africa Expansion


Titan Trust Bank Ltd., the Nigerian lender that agreed to acquire the shares of Atlas Mara Ltd. in Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, plans expansion across Africa after stabilizing its operations in the continent’s largest economy.

The initial plan for the first two years after the acquisition is to focus on key industries like agriculture and big companies for transactions, and later to consider expanding in Africa as well as diversifying across general financial services, according to Mudassir Amray, Tiran Trust’s chief executive officer.

The Union Bank acquisition gives Titan the scope to do bigger deals because it lifts the firm’s regulator-imposed lending limit by creating Nigeria’s sixth-biggest bank, Amray said in an interview. Union Bank’s total assets rose 19% to 2.6 trillion naira ($6.3 billion) in 2021, while Titan Trust had 136 billion naira as of 2020.

Titan Trust in 2021 signed the agreement with Atlas Mara, Union Global Partners Ltd., and other shareholders to buy 89.39% of Union Bank’s shares, subject to regulatory approvals and other financial conditions. It’s looking to obtain regulatory approval this month after which it will close the transaction, Amray said.

Repositioning Union Bank will be a priority after the takeover. The 105-year bank almost collapsed under bad loans following the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

This forced the Asset Management Corp. of Nigeria, or Amcon, to inject fresh equity into the lender in 2011. Atlas Mara, co-founded in 2013 by former Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond, acquired the Amcon shares in 2014 and progressively increased its stake to 49.97%.

Dashed Hope
Atlas Mara bought into Union Bank with the intention of establishing a foothold in Africa’s most populous market and expanding on the continent. Its exit from Union Bank and other countries including Botswana and Mozambique halted those pan-African ambitions.

While Amray would not comment on Atlas Mara’s travails at Union Bank, he sees the investment as a strategic buy that will complement the growth of Titan Trust, which started operations in 2019.

“We went for this acquisition only because we saw this as an opportunity,” Amray said.

Titan Trust is required to make a mandatory tender offer to minority Union Bank shareholders once the acquisition is completed.