South Africa’s biggest bank out to acquire banks in Nigeria, Kenya

Standard Bank Group Ltd. is open to acquisitions in Nigeria and Kenya as Africa’s biggest lender by assets expands its presence in key markets on the continent.

The lender is also keen to bolster its businesses in Ethiopia — where it has a representative office — and its home-market South Africa, Standard Bank Chief Executive Officer Sim Tshabalala said.

In Nigeria and Kenya, “if there was an appropriate priced asset with acceptable risk, we would definitely look at acquiring,” he said. Standard Bank paid $400 million to take control of its Nigerian unit in 2007.

Expanding in the continent’s biggest economies is part of a strategy to ward off intensifying competition and tap African companies growing within the region. There’s also potential for enhanced business as the African Continental Free-Trade Area, the world’s largest regional trade arrangement by membership and population, slowly takes root.

“Unlike five to 10 years ago, there are a number of African multinationals, who have got regional strategies, as well as international multinationals who are operating in countries where we don’t operate in,” Tshabalala said in an interview in Bloomberg’s Johannesburg office. “They want us to provide them a service, which forces us to think outside the existing network,” such as in Ivory Coast, Morocco, and Egypt, he said.

In Nigeria, unit Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, which runs a corporate and investment bank, posted a 38% jump in profit in the six months to June 30, the biggest increase since 2018. Standard Bank wants the unit, which has 140 branches, to expand in Africa’s most-populous nation without hurting its “strong returns” in the country, Tshabalala said.

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