May 25, 2007 / 1:26 PM / 12 years ago

UPDATE 3-Morocco's Attijariwafabank CEO resigns

(Adds market comment in paragraph 8, updates shares)

RABAT, May 25 (Reuters) - The chief executive of Morocco’s Attijariwafabank (ATW.CS), Khalid Oudghiri, has resigned and will be replaced by board Vice President Saad Bendidi until a successor is found, the company said on Friday.

Analysts said the bank’s strategy was unlikely to change after the departure of Oudghiri, a former manager at France’s BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA) who oversaw the takeover of family-owned Wafabank by Banque Commerciale du Maroc in late 2003.

The merger created North Africa’s biggest bank by assets and led to savings that contributed to a 24 percent increase in net profit last year, when Attijari’s stock leapt 90 percent.

Bendidi is chairman of conglomerate ONA ONA.CS, which owns 30 percent of the bank. No reason was given for Oudghiri’s departure, which was flagged in the press earlier this week.

“Saad Bendidi ... will oversee the management board of Attijariwafabank until the nomination of the future executive chairman,” the Casablanca-based bank said in a statement.

Attijari shares were down 0.5 percent at 2,710 dirhams at 1238 GMT, while the wider MASI index .MASI was little changed.

Local papers said relations had been tense of late between Oudghiri and some managers of ONA, which counts Morocco’s royal family among its top shareholders via investment vehicle SNI SNI.CS.

“I don’t think their strategy will change much because of this — all the board was behind Oudghiri’s strategy and the board didn’t change,” said Mohamed Essakalli, head of sales at Casablanca Finance Intermediation. “The big question is whether Oudghiri’s replacement will be as good as he was.”

“Bendidi is a very good strategist and nothing happened at Attijari without him knowing about it,” he added.

Moroccan banks have benefited from improving economic growth, cut bad loans and improved risk management in recent years, boosting their earnings.

Oudghiri pushed Attijari beyond Morocco’s borders, taking control of Tunisia’s Banque du Sud BS.TN in partnership with Spain’s Santander (SAN.MC), buying 66.7 percent of Senegalese lender Banque Senegalo-Tunisienne and applying for a banking licence in neighbouring Algeria.

He has said on several occasions that economic priorities will force deeper ties between Maghreb countries.

Attijari said early this month its net profit rose 44 percent in the first quarter, “in line with the group’s prospects for 2007”, without giving specific forecasts.

((Reporting by Tom Pfeiffer, editing by Rory Channing and David Holmes; +212 3772 6518; fax: +212 3772 2499; Keywords: ATTIJARI CEO/

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