The sale of BNP Paribas subsidiaries in Africa takes a political turn

Dossongui Koné, boss of Atlantic Finance and Simon Tiemtoré, CEO of Vista bank in a tight duel for the takeover of the 3 BNP Paribas subsidiaries in Mali, Guinea Conakry and Burkina Faso.

The process of selling BNP Paribas subsidiaries in Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea Conakry * has taken a political turn. BNP Paribas’ investment bank, which has been playing chiaroscuro from the start, did not wish to give exclusivity, leaving the two finalists on the file, namely the Ivorian businessman Dossongui Koné, and the American-Burkinabé, Simon Tiemtoré, compete in the anterooms of the African presidential palaces.

And, in this game there, according to our information, it is indeed the boss of Vista Bank Group and of the Lilium Capital fund, which would lead to the points, but Dossongui Koné – old business driver – has no intention at all to let the pawn beat. He is not lacking in strengths or support and argues that outside of Guinea, the political wind is rather favorable to him. Several people familiar with the matter seem to confirm that the Dossongui offer provides BNP with better guarantees of serenity in this transaction.

Supported by President Alpha Condé from the start, the former resident of the Pan-African bank Afreximbank was received earlier this week by Malian President Ibrahima Boubacar Keita (IBK) under the escort of the American ambassador in Bamako. And when we remember the ease with which he had acquired the Banque Commerciale du Burkina (BCB) – transaction ultimately aborted -, we can only predict a favorable outcome for this 45-year-old banker, about to acquire three subsidiaries in a process that has not shone through the traditional transparency surrounding merger & acquisition operations. « The candidates for the takeover will have demanded access to certain data until the end, without success. Under these conditions, it was difficult to make a precise assessment of the assets in transfer », fulminates a business lawyer.

It is moreover in the face of this lack of information that most of the prosecutors, like the Sunu-Africinvest duo, Coris Bank International, or even NAPC –CDC, abandoned the game. In these conditions, will the final decision retain the best technical and financial offer … or the one which will have the most political support? The announced and assumed choice of President Alpha Condé in favor of Vista would be based much more on regional geopolitics than on the presentation of files between the two buyers.

In the African business circles, comments are rife. Pushed to disengage from these three subsidiaries for various reasons and compliance concerns, costly since the record fine of $ 8.8 billion imposed by the American authorities, BNP Paribas will no doubt hesitate to sell its three subsidiaries to an entity with certain American ramifications. Young by age, New York-domiciled Lilium Capital is widely talked about with real and imaginary political and diplomatic support.

The fund is currently involved in a legal case concerning the disputed property of FIB Bank Group Gambia Limited. We remember that between 2015 and 2016, Lilium had acquired this banking entity from the Slok company of the Nigerian politician and businessman Orji Uzor Kalu, former governor of the state of Abia, currently in prison for 12 years for embezzlement of 7 billion naira perpetrated when he was in office between 1999 and 2007. The transaction on FIB Bank Group Gambia Limited was revealed by the Paradise Papers *.

According to Lilium, Slok’s shareholders and board of directors, including Orji Kalu, Mascot Kalu and Wolo Sodipo, all approved the sale of FIB Group and its subsidiaries to Lilium unanimously. This version is disputed by legal counsel to FIB Group Limited who recently stated that “Slok Nigeria Limited remains the legal and bona fide owner of FIB Group Limited and its banking subsidiaries”. Moreover, an illegal attempt by Lilium Grays Limited to take over the subsidiaries of FIB Group Limited was rejected by the Supreme Court of The Gambia by a judgment rendered on July 30, 2019.

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