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Atlas Mara taps Zimbabwe bonds, signs bank acquisition MoU in Rwanda

By GAR staff on 29.04.2014.

Atlas Mara Co-Nvest, the London-based investment joint venture between Bob Diamond and Ashish Thakkar, founder of the Dubai-based Mara Group, has agreed to both tap Zimbabwe’s bond market and separately to acquire the Development Bank of Rwanda.

In Zimbabwe the Diamond-Thakkar JV will tap much-needed international investment through a €150m ($208.8m) eurobond, the country’s finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa, revealed, adding that Bob Diamond had promised to help lure investors back to the country.

“It is remarkable that we have this opportunity to play a role in creating access to capital for the millions of young entrepreneurs like me.”

Chinamasa assured Diamond that he had made a safe bet, saying: “We welcome foreign direct investment here and I want to assure you that we are a safe destination.”

In Rwanda Atlas Mara has meanwhile signed an MoU to acquire a controlling interest in the commercial banking subsidiary of the Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD), acquiring a 77% stake in the bank from the Rwandan government for an undisclosed sum, though in 2011 the bank was valued at $42.3m.

“Much of the change of the last twenty years can be attributed to the leadership of the government and I am excited to be associated with this development,” Diamond stated, and the Kigali-born Thakkar added: “Rwanda is a country that holds a very special place in my heart.

“It is remarkable that today we signed this MoU, with BRD, a great bank, with even greater potential.  I am proud to have this opportunity to play a role in creating access to capital for the millions of young Rwandan entrepreneurs like me.”

Just weeks earlier, Atlas Mara signed ground-breaking deal for the group in Africa to acquire the Sub-Saharan banking group ABC Holdings and its shareholder ADC African Development Corporation (ADC) for $265m in cash and shares, funded by the Atlas Mara’s $325m IPO in 2013.

At the time Thakkar expressed: “With the combination of BancABC's regional expertise, ADC's initial platform and Atlas Mara's global experience, we can build a truly pan-African financial institution to address needs across the continent for a meaningful and lasting positive impact.”

In other development, Diamond successfully headhunted John Vitalo, his former colleague and Barclays CEO for the Middle East and North Africa, as the CEO for Atlas Mara Co-Nvest.

Diamond, who quit as Barclays’s CEO in 2012 after the bank was fined for manipulating the Libor inter-bank interest rates, said of Vitalo: “He is a business builder and deeply knowledgeable in the critical areas of technology and risk.”