April 23, 2019 / 10:48 AM / a month ago

BNP Paribas seeks buyers for stakes in banks in Tunisia, Gabon

FILE PHOTO: A BNP Paribas logo is seen outside a bank office in Nantes, France, February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

PARIS (Reuters) - BNP Paribas said Tuesday it is in the process of seeking buyers for its stakes in its retail banks in Tunisia and Gabon as France’s largest bank exits some non-core assets.

BNP Paribas has told the board of Tunisia-based Union Bancaire pour le Commerce et l’Industrie in January it was seeking a partner to takeover its 50.1 percent stake in the retail bank, BNP Paribas said in a statement on Tuesday.

The French bank confirmed a report from newspaper Les Echos, which also said it is considering selling its stake in its bank in Gabon, in which it holds 47 percent, though BNP Paribas declined to elaborate.

“BNP Paribas insists its presence in Africa is totally part of its international strategy and doesn’t plan to withdraw from the continent,” it said in its statement.

BNP Paribas has maintained for decades a presence in many French-speaking West African countries and intends to remain there. The bank has said it would dispose of non-strategic and unprofitable units.

The two banks it its planning to divest from are smaller than others it owns in other African countries such as Ivory Coast, Morocco or Algeria.

“This re-evaluation of geographical presence is in line with the action plan indicated at the fourth-quarter results,” brokerage KBW said Tuesday in a note to investors. “We expect BNPP is in the process of evaluating its stakes and presence in other geographies or business lines.”

According to BNP Paribas’ documents, its bank in Tunisia reported revenues worth 76 million euros in 2018 and profit before taxes worth 29 million euros. The bank hasn’t broken down data on the bank in Gabon.

BNP Paribas has recently sold stakes in a bank in Hawaii and in an insurance firm in India.

Reporting by Inti Landauro; Editing by Leigh Thomas

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