Rwandan bank BPR Atlas Mara has said it is finalising modalities to allow local shareholders sell their stake in the lender amid interest by Nairobi-headquartered KCB Group.
Managing director Maurice Toroitich said the bank is targeting to finalise the process before end of year to enable Rwandan BPR shareholders to offload up to 23.7 percent of their shares.
The major beneficiary is expected to be KCB Group, which acquired 62 percent of BPR shares from Atlas Mara Ltd in November 2020 and an additional 14 percent from private equity firm Arise in August this year, bringing its ownership in BPR to 76 percent. It now has its sights on the remaining 24 percent minority stake in the hands of local shareholders to claim full ownership of the Rwandan lender.
“Some shareholders have been complaining in the media about not having the means to sell their shares, but now in a week or two this will be possible. We already have seen some of them expressing interest to sell,” noted Mr Toroitich.
The shares held by the original Rwandan founders of the bank have in the past been a bone of contention whenever majority shareholding changed.
When Atlas Mara bought BPR in 2016, the shares belonging to local owners were largely unclaimed.
At that time, up to 415,292 of the 590,292 shareholders had not been registered. The bank in a bid to clean up the shareholder registry to avoid cases of ghost owners issued a communique calling on all investors to register and re-establish their status or lose their stake. Some of the shareholders can be traced back to its founding in 1975 when BPR was a co-operative bank.
It is not yet clear how many BPR shareholders are willing to sell, but Toroitich said the transactions will be at the discretion of individual owners.
"It is a process that can go on for some time but what is important is that there will be an avenue for them to be able to sell their shares," he said.
On whether KCB Rwanda and BPR will be merged to complete the acquisition process, Toroitich said: "Both parties are still involved in background work to that effect. We are also awaiting some approvals before both units are merged into one bank. There are governance and regulatory processes that have to first get out of the way."
"At the moment nothing has changed from an operational stand point, we are still operating as two separate banks," he added.
KCB’s acquisition of Atlas Mara's other unit in Tanzania, African Banking Corporation Tanzania Ltd (BancABC), is awaiting final regulatory approval. The Kenyan-based banking giant is also interested in acquiring a bank in the Democratic Republic of Congo, cementing its presence in East and Central Africa.
Experts in the financial sector say the fragmented Rwandan banking sector can only grow and play it's role as an economic driver, if it consolidates.