April 24, 2020 / 1:00 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 2-Egypt's Commercial International Bank buys 51% of Kenya's Mayfair

(Adds comments by CIB’s chairman)

By Duncan Miriri and Omar Mohammed

NAIROBI, April 24 (Reuters) - Egypt’s Commercial International Bank (CIB) has acquired a 51% stake in Kenya’s Mayfair Bank, the Kenyan central bank said on Friday, the latest in a string of deals in the East African nation’s banking sector.

Mayfair, which started up in 2017, controls just 0.2% of the market and is expected to benefit from funds, skills and banking infrastructure from CIB to help it grow, the central bank said.

CIB, one of Egypt’s leading private sector banks, has assets of $24.18 billion, according to the central bank added. It is the first Egyptian bank to venture into the Kenyan market.

“Its entry will also strengthen the trade and investment ties between Kenya and Egypt,” the central bank added.

Kenya’s banking industry has had a flurry of deals in the last three years after the government capped interest rates, hurting earnings for many banks and forcing them to look for ways to preserve earnings or survive.

The cap on lending rates was removed last November but lenders have not adjusted prices upwards.

CIB has injected additional capital of $35 million into Mayfair under the deal, CIB Chairman Hisham Ezz Al-Arab, told Reuters.

“The bank (Mayfair) is a small bank but this is our idea of growing in Kenya, a very well regulated market. The deal is part of our expansion in Africa,” the chairman said, citing the recent opening of a representative office in Ethiopia.

CIB plans to expand the bank by focusing on the retail segment, corporate banking and trade finance, Ezz Al-Arab said. They hope to eventually turn it into a hub for trade finance in Kenya and the neighbouring countries, he added.

Mayfair could not immediately be reached for comment.

Banking executives, however, say Kenya has too many banks, with about 40 commercial lenders in a country of 47 million people. That’s about one bank for just over a million people instead of one bank per two million people, which they consider more appropriate.

Recent deals in the sector include the merger of NIC Bank and CBA Group to form NCBA, and the acquisition of National Bank of Kenya by KCB Group.

Additional reporting by Ulf Laessing in Cairo; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Edmund Blair and Pravin Char

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