IMANI Ghana has called on the Bank of Ghana (BoG) to publicize issues relating to the alleged approval and sale of International Commercial Bank (ICB) shares to the First National Bank (FNB) of Nigeria lately.
According to the organisation, issues such as the form of evaluation process that took place before BoG announced the approval, knowledge of any competing local interests and whether BoG made the evaluation process known to any competing interests must be made public.
It said the Central Bank must also publicly declare the price ICB was asking the prospective buyer to pay, the value of debts on ICB’s books and how it intends to sell the debts.
‘It is very important that the BoG err on the side of caution. There are many lessons to be learnt from the recent botched sale of Merchant Bank. The intention of this alert is not to impugn the credibility of any foreign bank that expresses interest in acquiring a bank in Ghana. It is simply to ask if due diligence and proper procedures were followed.’
About a fortnight ago, it was announced that the First National Bank (FNB) of Nigeria had received final approval from the Bank of Ghana (BoG) to take over the assets of International Commercial Bank (ICB).
But Imani said the terse statements curiously did not mention the sale price for the ICB shares.
It noted that there was no disclosure of the evaluation process and its openness neither was mention made of any competing interests.
‘Per the terms of the approval ‘the FNB is required to offload at least 40 percent of the shares to Ghanaians through private placement and/or the Ghana Stock Exchange of which at least 25 percent should be offloaded by 31 st December, 2014 and the remainder not later than 31 st December, 2016’.
‘These developments are worrying given recent publications in the Financial Times of London about alleged insider trading involving the First Bank of Nigeria in the acquisition of Ecobank Transnational (ETI) assets.’
The Financial Times, in its September 19 th edition noted that the ‘Chairman of First Bank is reported by ETI directors to have been involved in a number of proposed deals, including a debt write-down and asset sales, which have contributed to unease among some of the pan-African bank’s shareholders and executives.
‘The publication also stated that Ms Laurence do Rego, ETI’s suspended Executive Director in charge of finance and risk, flagged the proposed deals in a written response last month to enquiries from Nigeria’s capital markets regulator. Among Ms do Rego’s allegations was that ETI’s chairman and its chief executive planned to sell non-core assets at ‘well below the market value’, which she opposed.’
It added that these developments may seem unrelated to FNB’s involvement in ICB’s acquisition.
However, BoG’s silence on the issue could lead to conclusions that have played out in Nigeria.