Thousands of Banque Populaire du Rwanda (BPR) shareholders could lose their shares if they don’t register themselves by July 18 to confirm their status. According to a notice by the commercial bank, up to 415,292 unregistered shareholders could lose their stakes in financier.
Ephraim Turahirwa, the BPR chief executive officer, said there are 590,292 shareholders as per the lender’s articles of association, “most of whom have ‘unknowingly’ owned shares in the bank”. The bank started as co-operatives in 1975, and transformed to a commercial bank in 2008.
“Some of the shareholders died during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, others due to natural causes. Therefore, there is a large number of people out there with shares in BPR, but are not aware of this fact,” Turahirwa told Business Times in an interview last week.
He said many Rwandans had opened accounts in the former co-operative society not as investors, but as clients seeking funding. “This could partly explain why most have long-forgotten that they are members cum shareholders in the bank,” he noted.
Following the bank’s resolution in an ordinary general meeting last month, BPR placed notices in the media asking all former members of the co-operatives Banque Populaires before July 31, 2007, who have not registered themselves with the firm, to do so within three months, from April 18, 2015 to July, 18 2015.
“After this period, all unclaimed shares will be sold to either the registered shareholders or outside investors,” he explained.
He added that of the 590,292 shareholders, only 175,000 of them have updated their status, including minority shareholder, Rabobank, a Dutch financial institution that acquired a stake in the bank in 2008.
“After that period, anyone else will be able to buy the shares, including Atlas Mara,” he said.
Regional and international media have reported that Atlas Mara is eyeing between 45 and 70 per cent stake in BPR in coming months.
According to the reports, Africa’s young top entrepreneur, Ashish Thakkar and Bob Diamond, the former chief executive of Barclays and founder of Atlas Mara, are willing to invest $22.5 million (Rwf16 billion) in BPR or a minimum of 45 per cent stake in the bank.
Turahirwa said the investment would more than double the bank’s capital to over Rwf30 billion, from Rwf16 billion currently.
“With increased capital, we will be able to finance bigger projects of up to Rwf100 billion, which we can’t easily do now,” he said.
He added that once Atlas Mara completes the acquisition, BPR would merge with BRD Commercial Bank, in which the investors bought a 75 per cent stake last year. This, he added, would increase the bank’s capital and client base.
BPR is Rwanda’s largest bank in terms of clients, with more than 500,000 customers transacting at least every six months. In addition, an estimated 500,000 accounts in the bank are dormant.
“We are the largest bank in terms of clientele base because we work with people at the grassroots unlike other banks, which mainly have corporate clients,” Turahirwa said.
Once Atlas Mara acquires BPR shares and is merged with BRD Commercial Bank, the two banks will have a combined capital of about Rwf40 billion, he added.
BPR focuses on lending to small businesses and farmers, while BRD Commercial is in retail and mortgage financing.
“I am excited by the prospect of our second acquisition in Rwanda because it is one of the most dynamic economies in sub-Saharan Africa,” John Vitalo, the chief executive of Atlas Mara told UK’s London Evening Standard last week.