Diamond’s Atlas Mara assessing more deals after first-year loss

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LONDON – Atlas Mara, the African bank co-founded by Barclays boss Bob Diamond, is considering more acquisitions and may raise cash to pay for them as it reported a loss for its first full year.

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Atlas Mara said the deals could range in scale “from multi-national operations to smaller ‘-’ acquisitions” and it may external financing this year to help. It has raised $625 million in two fundraisings.
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It aims to improve corporate governance, credit quality and operating efficiency at the businesses it already owns, the London-listed company said on Wednesday.

“Although forecasting is challenging in the current environment, we expect to demonstrate marked improvements in organic growth and profitability,” said Chief Executive John Vitalo.

Atlas Mara was co-founded by Diamond and Africa-based entrepreneur Ashish Thakkar in 2013 and wants to become sub-Saharan Africa’s leading bank. After a series of deals it has operations or interests across seven countries, including Botswana, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Diamond is one of the world’s best-known bankers after building Barclays’ investment bank over a decade and becoming CEO. He was forced in 2012 by UK regulators after the lender was fined for attempted rigging of Libor interest rates.

Atlas Mara said it made a loss of $63.1 million for the 13 months to the end of 2014 after takeover costs and provisions. Difficult economic and liquidity conditions in some countries and a strong U.S. dollar also hurt, it said.

Stripping out transaction and integration costs it would have made an underlying net profit of $7.2 million.

It said it expects to make a net profit this year and in the medium term deliver a return on equity of about 20 percent, which is well above what almost all other banks are targeting(REUTERS)