Contrary to impressions created by President John Dramani Mahama that he has blocked the controversial sale of Ghanaian-owned Merchant Bank to First Rand Bank of South Africa, the South African conglomerate, in its latest financial report, stated categorically that it will start full operations in Ghana from June 2013.
From the unaudited financial report of First Rand Bank available to DAILY GUIDE, plans for the final takeover of Merchant Bank have reached its final stages.
“The Group is awaiting final regulatory approvals relating to its offer for Merchant Bank Ghana (MBG) and expects to conclude this transaction in the second half of the financial year. This will provide an excellent platform for FNB [First National Bank] and RMB [Rand Merchant Bank] to roll out products and services in Ghana,” the multi-national bank stated.
According to First Rand Bank, even before the final approval, its subsidiary, RMB, had already secured juicy deals in the oil and gas and the property industries in Ghana. “RMB is already generating a strong deal pipeline in-country, particularly in the property, and oil and gas sectors,” the report read.
Early 2012, state-owned pension giant, Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), the majority shareholder (98 percent) of MBG, and the bank’s management concluded arrangements for 75 percent stake of MBG valued at US$ 91 million to be sold to the South African entity.
But several civil society groups and the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) protested against the sale, arguing that there was no basis for it and that the NDC was clandestinely pushing SSNIT to sell off the controlling stakes in the Ghanaian bank.
Government officials mounted several media platforms to debunk all reports of the sale, even when in August 22, 2012 international newswire, Reuters, reported that First Rand had already paid $91million for a majority stake in Merchant Bank.
Interests in the sale has been linked to some powerful people in the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), led by President Mahama. The government has denied influencing the sale and indicated that the reports were just mere intents expressed by First Rand Bank, with the President promising to block the deal.
Early October 2012, President Mahama waded into the raging controversy, saying he had ordered the blockade of the intended transaction.
At that announcement, even ex-President Jerry John Rawlings patted President Mahama on the back for blocking the deal that had generated such intense protests from Ghanaians, with elections then around the corner.
However, behind the scenes, frantic efforts between First Rand and SSNIT were going on to finalize the deal.
According to the NPP’s Deputy Director of Communications in a November 2012 statement, “Ghanaians have been treated to a bizarre diet of unofficial denial.”
Indeed, First Rand Bank considers Ghana, alongside a few other African countries, as one of its priority target markets as it expands its footprints into other parts of Africa.
“The Group seeks to generate incremental growth outside of its domestic market. It executes on the ground through its operating franchises and enters each market depending on the specific growth opportunities presented. On the broader African continent the priority countries for further investment remain Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya,” First Rand Bank stated in its latest financial report.
Already, the bank has pumped in over $100 million to acquire banking interests in Nigeria and Ghana appears to be the next target in West Africa.
DAILY GUIDE gathered that in October 2012, the former MD of MBG, Blaise Mankwah, convinced the Bank of Ghana (BoG) to endorse the Ghanaian company’s option of opening bid for its sale.
The management of the bank in October wrote to BoG and copied all shareholders that the reason the bank had to be sold was because of the crippling effect of its non-performing loan (NPL) portfolio.
The NPP is convinced the alleged non-performing loan predicament of the bank was necessitated by how it poorly handled its loan recovery system, especially to people close to the higher echelons of the NDC government.
SSNIT owns 98 percent of Merchant Bank, with SIC Life and the staff of the bank owning the remaining 2 percent.
Source: Raphael Ofori-Adeniran/D-Guide
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