Former Barclays boss Bob Diamond is attempting to buy the biggest bank in Zambia for a knockdown price, but the takeover talks have been mired in difficulties about the business’s controversial history.
Diamond’s London-listed Atlas Mara financial services company is looking to buy Finance Bank of Zambia, which is controlled by Rajan Mahtani, one of Africa’s wealthiest men.
Mahtani is a deeply divisive figure in the country and was recently arrested on forgery charges, claims he said were trumped up.
He had originally planned to float Finance Bank of Zambia on the London Stock Exchange but is now said to be attempting to conduct a sale to Atlas Mara.
A key difficulty is thought to be how to value the business given the blizzard of lawsuits and allegations of wrongdoing against it, including from former senior employees claiming they are owed severance money.
So many such issues have to be settled that Atlas Mara is thought to be demanding a massive discount on the purchase price. Liability for all outstanding litigation would have to be settled before local regulators allowed such a deal to progress.
One source said Atlas Mara was looking to pay $6 million (£4 million), an extraordinary discount for a bank with 40 branches and multiple revenue streams.
Atlas Mara is keen to expand in Zambia following its takeover of the country’s BancABC.