AMCON names new buyers of Keystone Bank

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The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON, has announced Sigma Golf Nigeria Limited and Riverbank Investment Resources Limited (the Sigma Golf-Riverbank Consortium) as the new investors in Keystone Bank.

The announcement came amid controversies surrounding the sale of the bank, with AMCON alleged to be acting in breach of extant takeover provisions.

AMCON, in a statement on Monday, said the announcement is in relation to the acquisition of the entire issued and fully paid up ordinary shares of the bank.

This, AMCON said, follows the receipt of the necessary regulatory approvals from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC.

The completion of the transaction is subject to the fulfilment of the conditions precedent as stated in the Share Sale and Purchase Agreement executed between AMCON and the consortium, the corporation added.

Earlier in November 2016, some senior officials of AMCON had voiced strong opposition to the planned sale of Keystone Bank Ltd.

The disturbed officials specifically alleged that Ahmed Kuru, the chairman of AMCON, had concluded plans to hand over Keystone to a coalition of powerful Northern interests, while disregarding extant takeover provisions of AMCON in the process.

PREMIUM TIMES had gathered that Sigma Pensions Limited, a firm linked to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Umar Modibbo, might emerge the new owner of Keystone Bank with its nearly 160 branches.

The two influential Nigerians were allegedly being represented by the firm which our sources said did not participate in the bidding process, in a clear contradiction of basic public asset sale requirements.

After a commercial was placed for the bidding process by AMCON, 13 companies had submitted their expression of interests but the companies did not include the firm which AMCON was set to sell the bank to.

PREMIUM TIMES findings revealed that the deal could also see Nigerian taxpayers lose billions of naira if allowed to stand. This is because AMCON was reportedly in talks to sell the bank for about N2.1 billion, representing only a fraction of the approximately N100 billion that AMCON paid to purchase the bank’s bad debts in 2011.

Findings also indicated that some of the companies that participated in the bidding process offered more than the amount and had core banking expertise.

The Keystone Bank, previously known as Bank PHB, was among the three banks nationalised by the CBN in 2011, after failing a stress test conducted by the apex bank.

The top AMCON officials, who spoke strictly on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Kuru sidestepped laid down requirements for asset sale to ensure Keystone is ceded to his cronies.

“It is very clear that all caution was thrown to the wind as a result of a grand plan to disqualify very strong and reputable intended buyers in order to allow the cronies and business associates of the Managing Director take over the bank,” a senior AMCON official had said.

They had also disclosed that, since the opinions being widely held across the country were that the president had a sectional agenda, the outcome of the sale would put the conjectures to test.

“It is an open secret within the banking sector in Nigeria that the sale was arranged for this powerful northern group whose promoters do not have the required banking experience, thereby raising questions about the supposed independence of the international advisers of AMCON in the sale of Keystone,” one official had said.

When contacted in November, Mr. Atiku’s spokesperson, Paul Ibe, had said he had no prior knowledge of his principal’s involvement in the controversial transaction, but still suggested that the opposition to his principal’s role by some AMCON officials might have been politically-motivated.

“I am not aware if his Excellency is interested or is involved in Keystone Bank. But even if he is, does that disqualify him? Is it because he’s a former Vice President and an APC chieftain? Hasn’t he run businesses successfully? Created jobs? Delivered dividends to shareholders? Paid taxes?

“Who are those internally? Who are the people? Is it politicians who are mischief makers hiding under the cover of internal people?” Mr. Ibe had said.‎

But AMCON, in its statement on Monday, said the emergence of the Sigma Golf-Riverbank Consortium resulted from a rigorous and competitive bidding process, which was coordinated for AMCON by Citibank Nigeria Limited, its affiliates and FBN Capital (joint financial advisers), and Banwo & Ighodalo, and Crosswrock Law (joint legal advisers).

Sigma Golf Nigeria Limited and Riverbank Investment Resources, the corporation stated, were entities set up by local investors, adding that the process for the sale of the bank started with interest shown by 18 parties cutting across local and international investors.

Keystone Bank was incorporated by the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation on August 3, 2011 following the revocation of the license of Bank PHB by the CBN.

As of April 2016, Keystone Bank had a staff strength of 1,753 employees, network of 154 branches, nine cash centres and 315 Automated Teller Machines.

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