Nigeria's Guaranty Bank steps up battle for Kenyan customers

NAIROBI Tue Feb 4, 2014 5:08am EST

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NAIROBI Feb 4 (Reuters) - Nigeria's Guaranty Trust Bank will open its outlets over the weekend and even deliver cash at home for Kenyan depositors, its chief executive said, aiming to win market share in one of the toughest markets for foreigners in Africa.

The bank, which is also listed in London, joins Nigerian lenders such as Ecobank and UBA which have also expanded into Kenya in recent years, but have yet to make a dent on the lead enjoyed by local and British banks.

Guaranty bought a 70 percent stake in Kenya's Fina Bank for $100 million last year to give it access to the wider east Africa market including Tanzania.

"When you come into any market you have to bring something different," Segun Agbaje told a news conference.

Guaranty, which says it is Africa's sixth biggest bank by profit, has already injected $30 million into its new Kenyan business, which will be invested in several areas including new information technology systems.

The bank plans to grow its assets to close to those of the biggest lenders such as Equity Bank and Barclays Kenya through focusing on existing business like personal lending and seizing new opportunities like oil and gas.

"There are about six banks which are considered tier 1. We are going to move this bank from where it is to just under the tier 1 banks over a five-year period," Agbaje said.

Fina was ranked the 19th largest bank in Kenya out of 43 in 2010.

Guaranty has wide experience in lending to the oil and gas sector with 20 percent of its loan book in Nigeria being composed of upstream activities.

Tullow Oil Plc discovered oil in Kenya's far north in 2012 and it is close to developing its fields in neighbouring Uganda.

Guaranty plans to expand into Tanzania in the next three years, Agbaje said. It already operates in Uganda and Rwanda. (Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by George Obulutsa and Mark Potter)

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