U.S. investor seeks to stop sale of Nigerian bank Mainstreet

Wed Jul 2, 2014 11:45am EDT

* U.S. firm sues AMCON over agreement with Afribank

* AMCON says Mainstreet Bank not party to the agreement

* Afribank nationalised by the government in 2010

* AMCON appoints Barclays to sell Mainstreet Bank

By Chijioke Ohuocha

LAGOS, July 2 (Reuters) - A U.S. court has summoned representatives of a body set up to manage Nigeria's rescued banks in a dispute with U.S. financial firm Intangis Holdings, which says Nigeria has ignored its right to buy one of the nationalised lenders.

Intangis wants the court to enforce its claim over Afribank, which was nationalised in 2010 and renamed Mainstreet Bank after coming close to collapse.

Intangis said it sealed agreements to acquire a majority stake in Afribank before it was liquidated and its assets were transferred to Mainstreet Bank, but it expected Mainstreet to be bound by those agreements.

Nigerian "bad bank" AMCON, which has managed Mainstreet Bank and two other lenders until they can be recapitalised and sold, said it was not concerned by the case because Intangis's demand applied to the defunct Afribank, not Mainstreet.

"I know about them... They have a deal with Afribank not Mainstreet Bank. It has nothing to do with Mainstreet Bank," AMCON Chief Executive Mustapha Chike-Obi told Reuters, referring to Intangis. "I am not worried about them."

Intangis is trying to block AMCON's plan to sell Mainstreet Bank. AMCON aims to offload its entire 100 percent shareholding and has asked Barclays Bank and local investment bank Afrinvest to manage the sale. It intends to complete a deal by Sept. 15.

The court summons filed in the state of New York and seen by Reuters on Wednesday gave AMCON's representatives 20 days to appear after receiving the summons and said judgment would be entered against AMCON if they fail to show up.

Intangis said the summons follows an arbitration hearing in Paris which ruled in its favour in September 2013.

If the court upholds Intangis's claim, AMCON may find it harder to find a buyer for Mainstreet.

The $4 billion bail-out of troubled Nigerian banks was overseen by former central bank governor Lamido Sanusi and helped prevent a collapse of the banking system following a 2008/9 financial crisis.

Sanusi stood up to powerful interests in the process, sacking eight chief executives, including Afribank's.

Before the nationalisation, shareholders in several of the lenders went to court to try to scupper any deals, saying Sanusi should have consulted them before injecting capital into the banks and removing their management. Many of those cases filed are still pending in several Nigerian courts.

Some shareholders and creditors said their investments had been unfairly taken off them by the authorities in the nationalisation. They have fought to claw some value back, especially since Sanusi was suspended from his job in February after a spat with President Goodluck Jonathan, and finally replaced last month. (Editing by Tim Cocks and Tom Pfeiffer)

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