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Moroccan lender BCP buys into I.Coast's Atlantique
Thu Jun 7, 2012 11:40pm IST

* BCP to pay 1 bln euros for 50 pct stake

* Deal opens bank up to seven new countries

* Trade in stock suspended on Morocco exchange (Retops with details of completed deal, quotes)

By Souhail Karam and Joe Bavier

RABAT/ABIDJAN, June 7 (Reuters) - Banque Centrale Populaire (BCP), Morocco's second biggest lender, will invest 1 billion euros ($1.26 billion) for a 50 percent stake in Ivory Coast's Group Banque Atlantique, the two companies announced on Thursday.

The deal, signed in Ivory Coast's commercial capital Abidjan, creates a new holding company grouping Atlantique's seven banking subsidiaries as well as its finance and technology operations, according to a statement.

BCP will have an equal stake with Atlantic Financial Group in the new entity and will take over management of the subsidiaries, the statement read.

"We are going to invest around 1 billion," Rachid Agoumi, who head's BCP's international and enterprise bank, told a press conference in Ivory Coast's commercial capital, Abidjan.

"(Ivory Coast subsidiary) BACI needs liquidity. We are going to inject this amount for the development of the group... That will permit us to be in seven African countries," he said.

Groupe Banque Atlantique has banking operations in Ivory Coast, Senegal, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

Talk of the deal earlier in the day caused Morocco's stock exchange regulator to suspend trading in BCP.

Traders on the Casablanca bourse were uncertain, however, whether the acquisition deal would target the parent group or simply its Ivory Coast subsidiary.

BCP has a market capitalisation near 31 billion dirhams ($3.5 billion).

The announcement comes two months after French cooperative bank BPCE announced an agreement to buy a 5 percent stake in BCP Banque Centrale Populaire (BCP) under a capital increase plan.

The Moroccan government last year raised 5.3 billion dirham by selling a 20 percent stake in BCP at a time when a spending spree to contain street protests inspired by the Arab Spring revolts had burdened public finances.

BCP already has affiliates in Guinea and the Central African Republic. Its immediate rivals AttijariWafa Bank and BMCE Bank have deeper presences in the continent. ($1 = 8.8279 Moroccan dirhams) (Reporting by Souhail Karam and Joe Bavier; Editing by David Holmes and Jon Loades-Carter)
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