FirstRand eyes Nigerian bank takeover

2011-04-14 18:11

Johannesburg - South Africa's second-biggest bank FirstRand [JSE:FSR] is in talks with Sterling Bank about taking a controlling stake in the Nigerian lender, it said on Thursday, as it seeks to bulk up its presence in the fast-growing African continent.

"Nigeria is a key market for FirstRand's African expansion given the strong underlying growth prospects in the Nigerian financial services sector," FirstRand said.

FirstRand said it could either subscribe or buy a majority stake in Sterling Bank.

Shares in Sterling Bank, which are valued at $177m, rose 4.57% in late afternoon trade.

Sterling has a national footprint in Nigeria with 99 branches nationwide and it passed the Central Bank of Nigeria's special audit of the Nigerian banking sector in 2009, when several banks had to be bailed out.

FirstRand, which has market capitalisation of around $17bn, said the deal would have no impact on its share price, which were down 2.32%.

FirstRand and rivals Standard Bank Group [JSE:SBK] and Absa Group [JSE:ASA] are building up their retail businesses across Africa, to meet rising demand from a burgeoning middle class.

FirstRand's statement confirms a Reuters story last month in which banking sources familiar with the negotiations said the two lenders were in advanced talks.