FirstRand Plans Retail, Commercial Banking in Nigeria

Jan. 12 (Bloomberg) — FirstRand Ltd., South Africa’s second-biggest financial-services company, said it plans to start a division in Nigeria that will include commercial and retail units.

“There are 150 million people and 10 million with bank accounts,” Chief Executive Officer Sizwe Nxasana said about the West African country to CNBC Africa in an interview today. Mobile money transfers, investment-banking products and debt and equity capital markets products will also suit the Nigerian environment, he said.

Nxasana, 52, made Johannesburg-based FirstRand’s African expansion plans clear in June last year, days after he was picked to be the first black CEO at one of South Africa’s five largest lenders. Standard Bank Group Ltd. has also said it’s looking for assets in Nigeria after that country’s banking crisis, which started in August last year, left 10 lenders close to bankruptcy.

“We’re talking to a number of people in Nigeria to get a much deeper understanding of the environment,” Nxasana said, without elaborating.

Guaranty Trust Bank Plc is the top stock pick among Nigerian banks, said John Storey, an analyst at Bank of America- Merrill Lynch, in a note to investors last month.

“We see Guaranty Bank as the best-in-class bank within Nigeria that provides exposure to upside surprises to the oil and macro-economic story,” he said. “Zenith, United Bank for Africa, Guaranty and FirstBank are the four largest banks in Nigeria by market capitalization and appear well-placed to gain market share in a consolidated sector.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Renee Bonorchis in Johannesburg at

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