Ex-Barclays boss Diamond targets Africa for banking return

By Reuters

Dec 08, 2013 05:19 PM EST

Bob Diamond, the former boss of Barclays, is set to return to banking by listing a shell company in London in the next few weeks to invest in the African financial sector, a source familiar with the matter said.

Diamond, who was ousted from Barclays last year after the Libor rate-rigging scandal, is finalising plans to list Atlas Mara, a cash vehicle set up with billionaire entrepreneur Ashish Thakkar, chief executive of Mara Group, the source said.

The vehicle will be managed by Atlas Merchant Capital, the merchant bank Diamond has set up in New York with a view to expand into sub-Saharah African banks and financial services.

It is being advised by Citigroup, the source said.

Diamond, via a spokesman in London, declined to comment on Sunday. Citigroup also declined to comment.

Diamond and Thakkar have approached investors with the aim of raising $250 million, the Financial Times reported on Saturday. Their vehicle plans to buy a stake in an African bank, it said.

The Financial Times said that Atlas Mara plans to list its shares on the London Stock Exchange in 10-15 days if the roadshow and the capital raising goes as planned.

Diamond left Barclays in July 2012 after the bank was fined $450 million for alleged manipulation of the Libor interbank lending rate. It was the first bank fined, but since then Switzerland's UBS, Royal Bank of Scotland and Dutch lender Rabobank have been handed much bigger fines.

Diamond was praised for building up Barclays' investment bank into a global power over more than a decade, but since he left it became clear that he had a poor relationship with regulators who said he had "sailed too close to the wind" since taking over as chief executive at the start of 2011.

Since leaving Barclays Diamond has kept a relatively low profile, but he has made no secret of his plans to invest in Africa, the location for much of his family foundation's work and a continent considered ripe for strong banking growth because much of the population does not have access to banking services.

Barclays and Standard Chartered have both said that they expect strong growth from their African operations in the coming years.

Diamond could be required to appear as a witness in April in a London court case relating to the alleged manipulation of Libor, in which Barclays is being sued for alleged mis-selling of products based on the benchmark interest rate.

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