Equity takes Sh18bn IFC loan days after buy-in

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The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is set to lend the Kenyan banking subsidiary of Equity Group $165 million (Sh18.6 billion), marking one of the largest single credit facilities to a local lender.

The proposed investment disclosure comes as the global financier also moves to acquire a 6.7 percent stake in the Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed firm for Sh13.9 billion, underlining the growing commercial ties between the parties.

“The proposed investment consists of a seven-year Tier 2, Basel II-compliant subordinated loan of up to $165 million (Sh18.6 billion) to Equity Bank Kenya Limited,” IFC said in the disclosure dated December 22.

“The investment will enhance the bank’s regulatory capital and support its lending operations to climate-smart projects and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Kenya.”

IFC will provide $50 million (Sh5.6 billion) of its own money while the balance of $115 million (Sh13 billion) will come from its partners.

Institutions investing alongside IFC enjoy the strong creditor protections that companies and countries typically accord to the global financier.

Besides being Equity’s top creditor, IFC is also set to become the bank’s second-largest shareholder after signing an agreement to purchase insurance firm Britam’s stake in the lender. The institutional investor will buy 253.1 million shares of the bank from Britam at Sh55 each based on negotiations with the insurer.

IFC will acquire 164.5 million shares of the lender directly and another 88.5 million shares through its IFC Financial Institutions Growth Fund LP.

Arise B.V., backed by institutional investors Norfund, FMO and Rabobank, is the top shareholder with an 11.99 percent stake in the Kenyan banking multinational.

The private transaction price represented a premium of more than 10 percent on the bank’s prevailing share price in the days before the deal was made public.

The announcement of the transaction has seen Equity’s share price rise towards Britam’s exit price.

For IFC, the proposed investment marks a closer relationship with Equity to which it is the single largest creditor.

The global financier had already lent the bank Sh21.8 billion as of December 2020, leading a list of development finance institutions that have backed the lender’s aggressive regional expansion.

It was not immediately clear whether the new loan represents a restructuring of the existing credit facilities or will add to the bank’s borrowings.

The transactions signal IFC’s confidence in Equity’s future growth prospects.

“Equity Bank Kenya is the second-largest bank in Kenya, with total assets of $7.2 billion (Sh815 billion) as of September 30, 2021. The bank has a substantial nationwide presence in Kenya through its network of 190 branches, over 380 ATMs, and over 42,000 banking agents. Across the country, the bank serves over 10.7 million customers,” said the IFC.

“The bank is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Equity Group Holdings … a key partner for IFC in East Africa with a significant footprint across the region and subsidiaries in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).”

Besides shoring up the bank’s capital base, the new loan will also be lent to customers fitting IFC’s impact investing criteria.

The global financier defines SMEs using various measures including firms having between 10 and 300 employees or annual sales of $100,000 (Sh11.3 million) to $15 million (Sh1.7 billion).

The loan size per borrower usually ranges from $10,000 (Sh1.1 million) to $2 million (Sh226 million).

The IFC also encourages the banks it funds to lend to women-owned enterprises and climate-related ventures such as renewable energy projects.

The proposed loan to the lender is the latest for the IFC, which has been funding scores of Kenyan banks, including KCB and Co-op Bank with billions of shillings in medium-term dollar-denominated facilities.

Source: Business Daily

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