BUSINESS REPORT: AFGRI Holdings buys SA Bank of Athens

Agricultural services and food processing group Afgri Holdings announced on Tuesday that it had bought National Bank of Greece Group’s (NBG’s) 99.81 percent stake in the South African Bank of Athens (Saba) for an undisclosed amount.

NGB, the second largest Greek bank by total assets, said in a statement that the deal was part of the bank’s restructuring plan agreed with banking regulators to boost its capital position.

It said the deal, expected to close in the second semester of this year, was subject to various conditions including regulatory approvals from the South African Reserve Bank, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, the Competition Commission and the Competition Tribunal.

Afgri said it was liaising with the Reserve Bank and preparing the prescribed applications for the regulatory approvals.

“Afgri values the support of clients, depositors and banking partners of the Saba and commits to continue to provide the service excellence they are accustomed to,” said Afgri chief executive Chris Venter.

Afgri said its indirect controlling shareholder, Fairfax Africa Holdings Corporation, supported the transaction.

Saba, established in 1947, provides banking services to medium-sized local businesses. It offers comprehensive traditional business banking such as lending, transaction banking, treasury and foreign exchange. Afgri, on the other hand, is an agricultural, financial services and food processing company operating in South Africa and 14 other countries in Africa.

Afgri said Saba was also focused on the development of niche transactional banking.

“We’re impressed with the strides Saba has made in specialised banking, especially as these pertain to the application of technology and innovative solutions,” said Venter.

He said the acquisition of Saba provided an additional retail and alliance banking platform to current and prospective Afgri customers where deposit taking and lending was possible “and in this way enables Afgri to continue with its focus of innovation and an enabler to food security”.

The deal follows NBG’s sale late last year of its Bulgarian subsidiary, United Bulgarian Bank, to Belgian bank KBC Group for e610 million. At the time, NBG said the transaction would strengthen its capital and liquidity position, allowing for the redeployment of resources to support the Greek bank.

NBG chairman Louka Katseli said in the 2015 annual report that the group was a pillar of stability and certainty for the Greek economy.

“The main intention of the NBG Group is to maintain its leadership profile and play an active role in supporting investments that can foster a resurgence in economic activity,” said Katseli.