Bob Diamond’s Atlas Mara is trying to acquire Barclays Africa

Barclays’ century-long relationship with Africa is about to end.
Barclays’ century-long relationship with Africa is about to end.
Image: Reuters/Toby Melville
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Atlas Mara, an investment vehicle founded by ex-Barclays boss Bob Diamond, has confirmed that it is exploring a bid for Barclays’ stake in its Africa operation.

While announcing company results today (April 26th), Atlas Mara said it “acknowledges that it has had discussions with a consortium of investors that is exploring an acquisition of Barclays’ stake in Barclays Africa and a potential combination of Atlas Mara with Barclays Africa,” according to an emailed statement.

Members of the consortium include Atlas Merchant Capital, Diamond’s New York-based investment vehicle, and Mara Group, headed by Ugandan billionaire Ashish Thakkar. Multiple reports have said that Diamond and Atlas Merchant Capital are working with private equity firm Carlyle Group to purchase Barclays’ 62% stake in Barclays Africa Group. Atlas Mara declined to comment on whether Carlyle is part of the consortium.

In March, Barclays said that it would sell its controlling stake in its Africa operations, which it has owned for most of the last century and includes investments in 12 African banks. Diamond, who co-founded Atlas Mara after resigning from the British bank in 2012 after its involvement in the manipulation of interbank lending rates, has been named as a potential buyer since then. Diamond and Thakkar, who both serve on Atlas Mara’s board of directors, said they would recuse themselves from discussions if a formal offer is made.

A merger with Barclays Africa would give Atlas Mara a needed boost to meet its expansion goals of moving into 15 sub-Saharan African markets from the current seven. The investment vehicle, founded in 2013, has struggled as investors have grown less interested in emerging markets. Barclays Africa could add as much $75 billion in assets to Atlas Mara’s $2.4 billion if a merger goes forward.

“Given the significant complexity and early stage of the discussions with the consortium, there can be no assurance that the transactions discussed above, including the potential combination, will be completed,” Atlas Mara said.