(Correct figure in 3rd paragraph to $20 million from $20
* Atlas Mara is targeting an acquisition in Africa
* Diamond partners 32-year-old entrepreneur Thakkar
* Sees opportunities as European lenders retreat
* Proceeds from IPO include $20 mln investment by founders
By Matt Scuffham
LONDON, Dec 17 Atlas Mara, a new
investment company backed by the former boss of Barclays
Bob Diamond, said it had raised $325 million by listing
on the London Stock Exchange and planned to build a new
financial services business in Africa.
Diamond embarked upon the venture after he was ousted from
Barclays last year when the bank was fined $450 million for
alleged manipulation of the Libor interbank lending rate.
He and African-focused entrepreneur Ashish Thakkar have
invested a combined $20 million in Atlas Mara and said in a
prospectus published on Tuesday they saw significant gaps within
the African financial services sector, partly because European
lenders quit the region after the financial crisis to focus
instead on building capital to meet tougher regulations.
That presented an opportunity, they said, to make an
acquisition that could be developed into a financial institution
"to support economic growth and strengthen financial systems in
The scope for growth in Africa is significant. Barely a
quarter of sub-Saharan Africans have a bank account, yet
economic growth in the region is set to outpace the global
average over the next three years, according to World Bank
British banks Barclays and Standard Chartered have
both said they expect strong growth from their African
operations in the coming years.
Arnold Ekpe, former chief executive of pan-African lender
Ecobank Transnational, will chair the Atlas Mara board
which will include Diamond and Thakkar alongside Tonye Cole,
co-founder of Sahara Group, and Rachel Robbins, lead lawyer for
the World Bank's International Finance Corporation.
Diamond left Barclays in July 2012. It was the first bank
fined for its involvement in Libor rate-rigging, but since then
Switzerland's UBS, Royal Bank of Scotland and
Dutch lender Rabobank have received bigger fines.
Diamond was praised for building up Barclays' investment
bank into a global power over more than a decade before taking
over as chief executive in 2011. However, evidence of a strained
relationship with regulators emerged following his departure
with former Bank of England governor Mervyn King telling
lawmakers the bank had been "sailing too close to the wind
across a wide number of areas".
Since leaving Barclays, Diamond has kept a relatively low
profile, but he has made no secret of his plans to invest in
Africa, where his charity - the Diamond Family Foundation -
supports a range of projects.
Conditional dealings in Atlas Mara shares began on Tuesday.
Citigroup acted as advisor on the IPO.
(Editing by Sophie Walker)