Atlas Mara Ltd plans to sell its stake in Zambia and 3 other African countries in exchange for a 6.27 per cent stake in Nairobi-based commercial bank Equity Group Holdings Plc (EGH), a move aimed at bringing first-class digital banking.

But Atlas Mara Zambia managing director James Koni says this change is only at shareholding level and will have no immediate impact on the day-to-day operations of the bank, and even ruled out any job losses in its unit.

According to a press release availed by Atlas Mara head – marketing and corporate communications Eric Ngondo, Atlas Mara announced a landmark deal that will see EGH acquire Atlas Mara’s 62 per cent shareholding in Banque Populaire du Rwanda (BPR) and, via the Company’s subsidiary ABC Holdings Limited, all of Atlas Mara’s indirect interests in African Banking Corporation Zambia (BancABC Zambia), African Banking Corporation Tanzania (BancABC Tanzania), and African Banking Corporation Mozambique (BancABC Mozambique).

The sub-Saharan African bank, founded by ex-Barclays Plc chief Bob Diamond, will swap its operations in Rwanda, Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania for a 6.27 per cent stake in Nairobi-based EGH Plc, according to a statement shared by Atlas Mara.

Subject to regulatory approval, the individual transactions are expected to close between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020, depending on jurisdiction.

But commenting on the proposed transaction in a statement, Koni expressed his excitement at the prospective transaction, explaining that the only major changes would occur at shareholding level, a situation which would not lead to any job losses or disruptions with its operations.

“As Atlas Mara Zambia, we are very excited about this new partnership for Atlas Mara Zambia. Equity Group Holdings Plc (EGH), which is a large diverse financial services conglomerate has a customer base in excess of 9.2 million in six East & Central African countries, namely Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Tanzania, making it one of the largest commercial banks on the African continent by customer numbers,” Koni stated.

“Much more importantly Equity Bank is the most innovation bank and has delivered strong financial inclusion and customer service using technology in East Africa. Our partnership with Equity Group Holdings Plc will give us an opportunity to further consolidate the good work we have done so far for our stakeholders. Equity Group Holdings Plc is a power house for innovation and digital banking. This will firmly position Atlas Mara Zambia to bring first class digital banking to Zambia.”

According to Ngondo, Koni stressed that the transaction would not lead to loss of employment for Atlas Mara Zambia employees.

“He further stated that the change is at shareholding level and will have no immediate impact on the day-to-day operations of the bank. He also confirmed that they will be no loss of employment for Atlas Mara employees. As a matter of fact, we should expect to see further expansion in other financial services, such as insurance and brokerage to provide a holistic financial services,” read the statement.

“The new partnership with Equity Group Holdings Plc will also present a great opportunity for us to adopt best technology and product innovation utilising the expertise from Equity’s unique business model, which offers a tried and tested pathway for growth through innovation.”

Atlas Mara Zambia was borne out of a merger between Finance Bank Zambia Limited and BancABC Zambia.

EGH is a renowned bank and has won a number of global accolades, ranked as 11th in the top 1,000 Banker as globally on return on assets, while also ranked 35th on soundness of capital.