Equity Bank May Be Interested in Parts of Barclays Africa

Equity Bank, Kenya's biggest bank by deposits, may be interested in buying parts of Barclays' Africa business, its CEO said on Tuesday.

James Mwangi told Reuters he saw potential acquisition opportunities following Barclays' decision to reduce its stake its Barclays Africa Group, which has businesses across the continent.

"If there is anybody who is well-positioned in the region to take up the spoils, it is Equity Bank," he said about the Barclays decision, citing Equity's focus on small- and medium-size enterprises as a major competitive advantage.

Mwangi also said the bank expected higher returns on assets and equity this year, mainly driven by profit from regional markets.

Alongside Kenya, Equity has operations in Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Mwangi said he saw opportunities to expand in Uganda and was interested in prospects for a new business in Ghana, in West Africa.

In the past five years, as Equity expanded in the region, the bank maintained a return on asset rate of 4.5 percent and a return on equity rate of about 25 percent, Mwangi said.

"Now that subsidiaries have broken even and have started enjoying significant growth, we see ourselves returning to a return on asset of 5 percent and a return on equity of 30 percent by the end of this year," he said.