Malawis First Merchant to buy micro lender Opportunity Bank

BLANTYRE, June 28 (Reuters) - Malawi’s First Merchant Bank will buy the local assets of micro lender Opportunity International Bank of Malawi (OIBM), subject to regulatory approvals, the two banks said on Wednesday.

This will be the second major acquisition by FMB, listed on the Malawi Stock Exchange, after its acquisition of a majority stake in Barclays Bank of Zimbabwe.

FMB Chairman Hitesh Anadkat said the deal gives the bank leverage to increase market penetration by tapping into OIBM’s largely rural and social agent banking platform.

“OIBM customers will be quickly and easily transferred to FMB. Opportunity International will be able to tap into our infrastructure and our network to continue adding great value to our country,” he said.

The deal is subject to approval by Reserve Bank of Malawi and the country’s competition commission.

With assets of over $455 million, FMB also has stakes in banking operations in Mozambique, Botswana and Zambia.

Opportunity is a unit of micro-lender Opportunity International, but its “no-frills” banking and lending model faces hurdles in a small market where the two large establishments, Malawi’s National Bank and South Africa’s Standard Bank also offer SME banking. (Reporting by Frank Phiri, editing by Louise Heavens)