(Adds details, background)
LAGOS Nov 23 Nigeria's central bank has issued
the country's first merchant banking licences in more than a
decade to South Africa's FirstRand and local firm FSDH,
it said on Friday.
They are the first since the regulatory distinction between
merchant and commercial banking was axed twelve years ago.
Following many Western countries, Nigeria allowed commercial
and investment banks to merge their operations in 2000.
But it scrapped this universal banking model two years ago
in the wake of a financial crisis that nearly sank nine lenders
and forced the central bank to spend $4 billion in a rescue.
The country has now reverted to having a firewall between
retail banking and the speculative capital market business.
"We have issued banking licence to Rand Merchant bank
Nigeria and FSDH to operate as merchant Bank," Ugochukwu
Okoroafor, the central bank's director of communication, said.
FirstRand declined to comment on the license while FSDH,
which currently runs asset management operations in Nigeria,
said it will start merchant banking operations by the first
quarter of next year.
(Reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha and Oludare Mayowa; Additional
rpeorting by Helen Nyambura in Johannesburg; Editing by Tim