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Equity Group eyes regional footprint after buying Congo lender

By Reuters | November 12th 2020
Equity Bank CEO Dr. James Mwangi. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Equity Group’s acquisition of Congo’s Banqué Commerciale du Congo will help it grow its balance sheet to Sh1 trillion (USD9 billion) by the end of 2020 and diversify into a regional bank, chief executive James Mwangi said.

The deal between Equity’s operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and BCDC was completed in August and has accelerated the bank’s goal of having 40 per cent of its balance sheet outside of Kenya, Mwangi said.

“This year, 40 per cent of our assets will be outside, reducing the sovereign risk and truly becoming a regional bank,” he told Reuters on Wednesday.

“BCDC and Equity combined together would be a USD2.5 billion balance sheet by the end of this year, and that is how we see a line of sight to a trillion shilling balance sheet by the end of this year.”

Equity also operates in Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Uganda, and has a representative office in Ethiopia.

Like other commercial banks in Kenya, Equity’s profits have taken a hit due to effects of COVID-19, leading to a 20 per cent drop in pretax profit to 19.8 billion shillings (USD181.57 million) in the first nine months of 2020, it said on Thursday.

The bank’s loan loss provisions grew 11-fold to 14.3 billion shillings in the same period. The bank obtained a USD600 million credit line to ensure that the cash flow that could have come from rescheduled loans was maintained, Mwangi said, without giving details of the credit line’s source.

COVID-19 containment measures have hurt businesses and affected about 45 per cent of the bank’s customers, he said.

“We gave ... the customers rescheduled facilities to ensure that none of them failed because of loan repayment,” he said.

The bank reported a 30 per cent growth in its loan book to 453.9 billion shillings at the end of September 2020 from 348.9 at the same time last year, helped by demand for credit for online businesses, manufacturers of personal protective equipment, logistics firms and agro-processors, Mwangi said.

(USD1 = 109.0500 Kenyan shillings)

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