Bob Diamond makes triumphant return to the City with a new African banking business


Click to follow
The Independent Online

The former Barclays’ chief executive Bob Diamond has raised a higher than expected $325m (approximately £200m) from investors as he returned to the London stock market today with a new venture targeting Africa.

Diamond’s Atlas Mara Co-Nvest has raised $325 million from investors, which is much more than the original $250 million he had targeted.

The American banker, who resigned from Barclays in July 2012 after it was fined a then record £290m for its role in rigging key Libor interest rates, was looking to raise $250m with the listing of Atlas Mara Co-Nvest. Shares in Atlas Mara, which is a joint venture between Diamond and Africa’s youngest billionaire Ashih Thakkar, jumped to 10 per cent in early trade.

The business will be managed by Diamond’s new New York investment bank Atlas Merchant Capital. It plans to buy a financial services business in Africa, "with all or a substantial portion of its operations" in the continent.

Diamond has put $16 million of his money into the venture and the Ugandan IT entrepreneur Thakkar is stumping up $4 million.

Unlike other such greenfield ventures, like Nat Rothschild’s Bumi and Tony Hayward’s Vallares, Diamond and Thakkar will bear all the costs of setting up the business and doing that first deal. They will only begin to get a return once the share price hits a set target and stays there for ten consecutive days. And even then they will be paid in shares.

It is understood that the share offer attracted dozens rather than hundreds of investors. But these include some very well-known global institutional investors and high net worth individuals.

“Bob was never short of fans,” said one person near to the share offer.

The shares (and their attached warrants) were sold to investors at $10 each under the ticker symbol "ATMA" and when conditional dealings began this morning the price jumped to $10.13.

Citigroup acted as the sole global co-ordinator and book runner.

In its prospectus, Atlas Mara said: “The directors believe that there are significant gaps in the market today including the need for capital created by European financial institutions retreating to their home territories due to the sovereign debt crisis and the Basel III regulatory framework at a critical time for growth in Africa.”

Diamond resigned under intense pressure from politicians and regulators in 2012, after it emerged that Barclays traders engaged in a secret scheme to manipulate the crucial London inter-bank lending rate, which underpins trillions of pounds in the derivatives market but also mortgages and commercial loans.

Diamond waived his £20 million bonus but walked out with a hefty £2 million in payoffs.

In an interview with The New York Times earlier this year, Diamond admitted that moving on from the Libor scandal had been "hard" but added that he was ready to turn the page.