FirstRand bid for Ghana's Merchant Bank nears approval

ACCRA Fri May 10, 2013 1:13pm EDT

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ACCRA May 10 (Reuters) - Ghana's central bank is likely to approve a bid by South Africa's FirstRand to acquire a 75 percent stake in Accra-based Merchant Bank soon, it said on Friday.

Ghana's workers' pension scheme SNIT owns 68 percent of Merchant Bank and the deal, when completed, should place the bank among the country's five largest in terms of assets, according to a senior central bank official.

"We do not have any objection to the proposal, and we are likely to approve it soon," central bank governor Henry Kofi Wampah told Reuters.

The parties involved in the deal were addressing some remaining public interest concerns and approval would be given when those issues were resolved, Wampah said, without giving further details.

The FirstRand Group submitted its application for the deal early last year. But approval by Ghanaian authorities has taken longer than initially expected.

The financial sector plays an important role in Ghana, where the economy expanded by 15 percent in 2012 and is expected to grow by 8 percent in 2013. (Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Helen Massy-Beresford)

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