Atlas Mara announces merger of BPR, BRD Commercial

Banque Populaire du Rwanda, popularly known as ‘BPR’, and BRD Commercial Bank are set to merge following the acquisition of the former by Atlas Mara, a sub-Saharan financial services group. 

The merger will make the joint entity the second-largest bank with assets worth $325 million, and the largest financial services player in terms of branches across the country, subject to the central bank approval.

The announcement was made yesterday after Atlas Mara signed a deal marking the acquisition of an equity stake in BPR.

According to a statement signed by the two entities, the merger will lead to a new entity to be known as ‘BPR’.

Atlas Mara is expected to invest about $21 million (about Rwf15 billion) into the bank and hold a majority stake in the financial institution of about 62 per cent.

The financial services group acquired the commercial wing of the Development Bank of Rwanda in 2014 to form BRD Commercial.

Speaking after the signing yesterday, John Vitalo, the chief executive of Atlas Mara, said the development will see customers, employees and shareholders benefit from the enhanced capital base, enlarged distribution network and expanded capabilities of the combined group.

“The combination of BPR and BRD Commercial, which will rank as the second-largest bank in Rwanda by assets, is consistent with Atlas Mara’s strategy of being a scale participant in its countries of operation,” he said.

Vitalo said acquisitions and subsequent merger was informed by the potential portrayed by the Rwandan economy toward the goal of becoming a regional hub for financial services.

“We remain optimistic about Rwanda’s prospects despite the headwinds currently being experienced by many other African economies, supportive of the country’s efforts to become East Africa’s financial services hub, and look forward to contributing meaningfully to the ongoing development of financial services in the country,” Vitalo said.

‘Good for growth’

Banque Populaire du Rwanda said the development would further grow their entity as Atlas Mara would bring in experience, innovation and capital.

Ben Christiaanse, the bank’s board chair, said the agreement would position them favourably for the future.

“We are confident in the experience, innovation-orientation and capital that Atlas Mara will bring to bear to the benefit of all of BPR’s stakeholders, including employees, customers and shareholders,” Christiaanse said.

The board chair said the new brand name, ‘BPR’, suits the combined entity as it had gained resonance and prevalence across the country over the years.

“We are also pleased that the merged entity will carry the ‘BPR’ name going forward, given its provenance and resonance across Rwanda. We look forward to continuing to work with Atlas Mara to complete this important transaction,” he added.

Atlas Mara may seek to acquire outstanding unregistered shares held by unknown shareholders after existing shareholders have exercised their pre-emptive rights.

This could result into ownership of more than the 62 per cent the firm currently holds. The transaction is expected to be completee by the end of the year.

Banque Populaire du Rwanda was founded in 1975 when the people of Nkamba, a village in the current Eastern Province, created a savings and credit cooperative to enhance the livelihoods of members. It became a fully fledged bank in 2008.