Bob Diamond's African bank Atlas Mara makes its maiden profit

Former Barclays boss set up firm two years ago

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The Independent Online

Bob Diamond, the former boss of Barclays,  has taken another step in repairing his damaged corporate reputation as his African-focused bank Atlas Mara made a maiden profit.

The London-listed financial services firm swung into the black for the first time since it was set up two years ago, making $4.1m (£2.7m) in the first half of the year, compared with a $63.1m loss in 2014.

The  former head of Barclays and the Ugandan entrepreneur Ashish Thakkar co-founded the company in 2013 with the intention of building it into the leading bank in sub-Saharan Africa.

So far Atlas Mara has operations in seven African countries, including Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Botswana, and today said it could double that number as it “evaluates further acquisitions”. Atlas Mara is still in talks to take a stake in Banque Populaire du Rwanda, which it wants to merge with its existing Rwandan operation BRD Commercial, to create the latest bank in the country.

The company’s shares are still languishing below the $10 level at which they floated in December 2013, closing down 7.5c at $5.70 on Thursday. Its chief executive, John Vitalo, said yesterday that he shared “the frustration of our investors with respect to recent share price performance” and would address their  concerns, improve communication and try to encourage more liquidity in the  stock.

Atlas Mara also said it expected an improvement in the second half of the year, although Zimbabwe continued to be challenging.

During the first half, the company was boosted by a deal with the Tanzanian postal agency to set up banking services in all of its post offices across the country. That could increase the size of its BancABC Tanzania arm from four branches to 199 outlets.

As well as founding Atlas Mara, Mr Diamond, ousted from Barclays in 2012, has set up a private equity firm to invest in the US and European financial services industries. Through this fund he made a surprise return to Wall Street earlier this month, buying a stake in South Street Securities, a New York trading firm specialising in the repo market.

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