Bank of Ghana (BoG) says it is not aware of the Unibank takeover of the Agricultural Development Bank (adb) by indigenous bank, uniBank.
BoG Governor, Dr Ernest Addison said the Central Bank has neither sanctioned the change of adb ownership nor the willing of the majority shareholder’s rights to uniBank.
He was reacting to reports about adb takeover at the commissioning of a new headquarters for pan-African bank, Ecobank in Accra yesterday.
Ghanaians woke up to the news about the sale of the local bank after a consortium of financial institutions that control 51 percent shares in adb reportedly willed their rights to uniBank.
The consortium is led by Belstar Capital–a turnkey project finance and implementation institution–also includes Starmount Development Company Limited, EDC Investments Limited and SIC-FSL.
UniBank however confirmed that it had gone into a transaction with four major shareholders of Agricultural Development Bank (adb) that has effectively given majority control of the state bank.
It said the move follows the pledging of shares and voting rights of the consortium of shareholders in adb Bank.
“Belstar Capital, Starmount Development company, EDC as well as SIC Financial Services Limited, have all pledged their shares, proceeds, entitlement and voting rights to Unibank”, the bank said.
The report startled sections of Ghanaians after two other indigenous banks –Capital and UT banks –were required by GCB in August last year.
The Central Bank approved the sale of the two banks after they were found to be financially distressed, but it had denied authorising the takeover of adb.
“Just to clarify that the Central Bank has not given approval to the purported takeover or through the pledging of shares of the Agricultural Development Bank (adb) to uniBank,” Dr Addison said
It is still unclear what informed the decision of the shareholders.
But speaking on the Citi FM yesterday, the Chief Executive Officer of Unibank, Dr. Kwabena Duffour Jr. said “the plan is in the best interest of the banking industry”.
“For now, we have the power and control to change it from adb. Down the line we might decide to do a proper transfer where we will need the approval of the various regulatory bodies but for now we have the power and control over it,” he added.
Dr. Duffour Jr however failed to give further details on how they managed to secure the deal in adb saying “I’m not at liberty to discuss the underlining transaction.”
With the latest development, it is unclear what happens to government’s intention of merging state banks adb and the National Investment Bank (NIB), as announced by the Finance Minister in the 2018 budget statement presented to Parliament.
Meanwhile officials of adb have denied the bank has been taken over by, uniBank, describing the report as pure lies.
Although there was an acknowledgement of moves to transfer a majority of the shares to uniBank, adb said such an action would have to be sanctioned by the Central Bank.
“At the moment that has not been done despite receiving letters from the consortium of banks such as Belstar Capital Limited, EDC Limited and Starmount Investment Limited to that effect,” adb said in a statement.
Reacting to the report later, adb said a pledge to transfer rights and shares to a third party does not translate to a “transfer of ownership.”
“If the shareholders mentioned herein have pledged their shares together with any benefits or privileges attached thereto that will not have the effect of making uniBank a shareholder of the Agricultural Development Bank Limited or constitute a takeover of the Bank,” it said in the statement.
The adb bank commenced its Initial Public Offer (IPO) in July 3, 2015.
Prior to that the bank was forced to put the IPO on hold several times following some agitations from the workers and some Ghanaians.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for the New Juaben South constituency, Dr. Mark Assibey-Yeboah also dragged the bank to the Supreme Court insisting that the Bank’s IPO should first be approved by parliament.
Story: Kofi OWUSU TAWIAH
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