RABAT, Sept 24 (Reuters)
RABAT, Sept 24 (Reuters)
Morocco’s government, battling to contain a high budget deficit, has agreed to sell a 10 percent stake in Banque Populaire, its second divestment in the lender in a little over a year.
The Finance Ministry said the sale to Banque Populaire’s regional branches would reduce to 6.34 percent the state’s interest in one of the country’s top three lenders, the official MAP news agency reported.
The government raised 5.3 billion dirhams ($617 million) from the sale of 20 percent of the bank in May 2011, a time when a spending spree to contain street protests burdened its finances.
Populaire’s regional branches will hold 47 percent stake in BCP after the transaction, which the ministry said was signed on Friday. It did not disclose the value of the deal.
Shares in the bank closed down 0.09 percent on Monday at 202 dirhams, down by about 1.5 percent from their level when the government sold the 20 percent stake last year.
The sale, according to the ministry, aims to boost BCP’s development and to allow its regional branches to play a bigger role in the country’s plan to devolve powers to its regions.
“BCP seeks to become a leading regional mutual bank,” said a bank executive who has been close to the deal. “The state’s divestment aims to help BCP in its race with local private rivals to expand in Africa, and the timing comes in handy for a government that has budgetary holes to plug.”
The government has promised to cap the budget deficit this year at 5 percent of gross domestic product, after hitting its highest level since the 1990s last year.
Banque Populaire has been in need of cash to fund an expansion plan, which in June marked its biggest progress to date with the purchase of a 50 percent stake in Ivory Coast lender Group Banque Atlantique active in Ivory Coast, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.
BCP already has affiliates in Guinea and the Central African Republic, but its immediate rivals AttijariWafa Bank and BMCE Bank have deeper presences in the continent.
Last month, BCP said it has agreed to sell 5 percent of its capital to the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation for 1.74 billion dirhams, or 201 dirhams a share.
The IFC transaction was BCP’s second deal with a foreign partner since April when French cooperative bank BPCE agreed to buy 5 percent stake, also at 201 dirhams.
($1 = 8.5945 Moroccan dirhams)