Morocco's Attijariwafa bank to eye new Africa acquisitions from late 2019

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Morocco’s Attijariwafa Bank plans to launch a new acquisition push in Africa late next year, starting with Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia, a bank executive said on Thursday.

Attijariwafa, one of Morocco’s biggest banks that is controlled by the royal family through its Al Mada holding company, already has subsidiaries in Cameroon, Congo Republic, Egypt, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Tunisia and Togo. It also has branches in Europe and the Gulf.

“We have opportunities in Rwanda. We are also considering opportunities in Kenya and Ethiopia,” Youssef Rouissi, the bank’s deputy general manager for global corporate investment banking, told Reuters.

“The idea is to acquire banks that are ranked among the first five banks in every market,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of an investment conference in Johannesburg.

Several Moroccan banks, telecoms firms, construction companies and industrial groups have been expanding in Africa, driving up Morocco’s foreign direct investment abroad to $960 million in 2017, according to U.N. statistics.

Attijariwafa, which bought the Egyptian unit of Barclays in 2017, reported net profit attributable to shareholders up 6.4 percent at 2.8 billion dirhams ($295 million) in the first half of this year.

Rouissi said much of 2019 would be dedicated to integrating the new Egyptian subsidiary, after which the firm would seek out new targets that offered strong retail banking and expanded the geographical reach of the group’s corporate banking operations.

“Energy is a key focus for us, but also infrastructure - ports, industrial zones - and of course support of agribusiness, transportation and logistics, which are also key for the development of these countries,” Rouissi said.

He added that Attijariwafa aimed to draw on its experience financing Morocco’s infrastructure boom by offering its expertise to governments in the new markets it enters.

($1 = 9.4886 Moroccan dirham)

Reporting by Joe Bavier Editing by Edmund Blair