Ecobank signs deal to partner with India's ICICI

LAGOS Mon Apr 8, 2013 11:16am EDT

Customers use ATM machines at an ICICI Bank branch in Mumbai January 30, 2013. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Customers use ATM machines at an ICICI Bank branch in Mumbai January 30, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Vivek Prakash

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LAGOS (Reuters) - Pan-African lender Ecobank Transnational (ETI) (ETI.LG) has signed a memorandum of understanding to partner with India's second largest bank ICICI (ICBK.NS) to make itself a hub for Indian investment into Africa, Ecobank's CEO said on Monday.

CEO Thierry Tanoh told the Reuters Africa Investment Summit that a similar alliance with South Africa's Nedbank (NEDJ.J), had helped it gain better access to markets in southern Africa.

"What we are trying to do is become the partner of choice when it comes to dealing with sub-Saharan Africa," Tanoh, who has headed up the bank since October last year, told the summit, adding that the MoU with ICICI had just been signed.

"The idea is to attract South-South (developing country) investors to go through our bank, in order to do business in sub-Saharan Africa."

He added that the bank was forecasting an increase in deposits of 20 percent, revenue growth of 15 percent and a fall in cost-income ratios into the low 70s for 2013.

ETI, which has operations in 33 countries since opening a new branch in Equatorial Guinea, posted a record pretax profit of $348 million for 2012, an increase of 25 percent on the previous year, results released last month showed.

The Togo-headquartered bank grew its loan book to $10 billion last year against $15 billion in customer deposits and total assets of $20 billion, the results showed.

Tanoh said those results were driven in part by the successful integration of the acquisitions of Nigeria's Oceanic Bank and Ghana's The Trust Bank.

He said Ecobank was seeking to profit from growing intra-African trade flows, which he expected to increase as the continent builds out infrastructure and develops. He said intra-African trade had grown to 12 percent of total trade on the continent last year, from under 10 percent five years ago.

Tanoh said the alliance with Nedbank enabled both to expand their reach into new places.

"We have a lot to learn from each other: from their experience in the southern part of ... Africa and us (being) in places where they have absolutely no presence," he said.

Nedbank lent Ecobank $285 million to help fund acquisitions in Nigeria and Ghana, which it has the right to convert into equity.

Tanoh said ETI still had plans to expand into Mozambique and Angola, but that the timing was not yet clear.

"We are moving towards it, but it's important to establish yourself in the right way," he said. ($1 = 157.5 naira)

(Editing by Louise Heavens and David Cowell)

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