Thursday, May 13, 2021

Atlas Mara co-founder Bob Diamond steps down as chairman

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Bob Diamond is stepping down as chairman of Atlas Mara as the pan-African banking business he helped to create also said it was reviewing the future of all of its operations.

The former Barclays chief executive will stay on at Atlas Mara as a non-executive director while the group, whose shares have lost 42 per cent of their value in the last year, begins assessing what it called “indications of interest” for some of its businesses, which span sub-Sarahan Africa.

In a stock exchange statement, Atlas Mara said it had hired Citigroup to run the review of all of its divisions to “ensure that top five market leadership is practically achievable in the near term.”

If its advisers assessed that such goals could not be reached, Atlas Mara said, it would “explore transactions that will reduce risk exposure where such leadership is unlikely on a standalone basis.”

Mr Diamond will be replaced as chairman by Michael Wilkerson, CEO of Fairfax Africa, which is Atlas Mara’s largest shareholder.

The former Barclays boss had only assumed the chair of Atlas Mara’s board on an “interim basis”, Atlas Mara said on Wednesday. Mr Diamond became interim chairman in October 2016.

The shake-up at Atlas Mara comes after the group took a year to find a chief executive. South African banker John Staley took that role last April, filling a gap that had been left empty since John Vitalo quit in February 2017 amid growing investor concerns over faltering performance and share price weakness. The group was also forced to cut costs and jobs following currency shocks in Africa in 2015.

On Wednesday, Atlas Mara also said it would take a 35 per cent stake in South African financial services group GroCapital. The group’s other investments include a 31 per cent stake in Union Bank of Nigeria as well as banks in Botswana and Rwanda.

Mr Diamond floated the business in London in 2013. And while the opportunity to build a banking giant in Africa was perceived by investors in the IPO to be huge, Atlas Mara’s shares, at $1.65 apiece, have lost around 86 per cent of their value since the group’s stock market debut.

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