Nigeria’s Biggest Bank Picks Eight Countries for Expansion

(Bloomberg) -- Access Bank Plc, Nigeria’s biggest lender, has identified eight African countries for a potential expansion as it seeks to benefit from a continental-wide free trade pact.

Access Bank plans “to expand to high-potential markets, leveraging the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area,” Chief Executive Officer Herbert Wigwe said on an investor call on Tuesday. The bank already operates in 12 countries following a series of acquisitions spanning from Kenya to its home market.

  • The markets of interest are Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Angola, Namibia and Ethiopia, according to an online presentation emailed by the Lagos-based lender
  • The lender will set up offices in some countries and in others go into partnerships with existing banks or leverage on its digital platforms to provide services to customers, Roosevelt Ogbonna, deputy managing director said by phone. The bank will “in another month or two, once the arrangements have been put in place,” give clarity on the nature of operations in some of the countries, he said.
  • It will also use its London-based unit as an “anchor for growth” to expand representative offices in countries such as India, Lebanon and China, the bank’s CEO said

The African trade pact aims to bolster intra-regional commerce by lowering or eliminating cross-border tariffs, facilitating the movement of capital and people, promoting investment and paving the way for the establishment of a continental-wide customs union.

Africa Heralds Onset of Free-Trade Pact After Years of Talks

Access Bank plans to eventually expand into 22 African countries to cushion challenges in some markets, diversify earnings and take advantage of growth opportunities in the region.

The lender, which is looking to transition to a holding company this year, plans to open subsidiaries in insurance brokerage, consumer lending and agency banking as well as payments to boost revenue, Wigwe said.

(Updates with operations model in second bullet point)