Ghana Merges Five Failed Lenders in $1.2 Billion Bank Rescue

(Bloomberg) -- Ghana’s banking regulator said it created a new lender through a merger of five insolvent banks as the country issued 5.8 billion cedis ($1.2 billion) in bonds to clear their debt.

Bank of Ghana revoked the licenses of Unibank Ghana Ltd., Royal Bank Ltd., Beige Bank Ltd., Sovereign Bank Ltd. and Construction Bank Ltd., Governor Ernest Addison told reporters Wednesday in the capital, Accra. The lenders were among the smallest of Ghana’s 34 previously authorized banks and the merger is part of increasing efforts to avert failures in an industry that has been beset by poor governance and weak lending.

The five lenders’ assets will be transferred to the newly created Consolidated Bank Ghana Ltd., which is fully owned by the government, Addison said. The government will provide the bank with 450 million cedis in fresh capital, he said.

Deposits Safe

“All deposits of the five banks are safe and have been transferred to the Consolidated Bank,” Addison said. “Customers can carry out their business as usual at their respective banks, which will now become branches of Consolidated Bank.”

Consolidated will acquire all deposits, “good assets” and some liabilities of the five lenders, Addison said. The bond will bridge the gap between the liabilities and good assets while the bank will be headed by Daniel Addo as chief executive officer, he said.

The government intends to privatize the bank within two years, the central bank said in a statement on its website.

The regulator has intensified its oversight of Ghana’s banking sector in the past year as it announced a more than three-fold increase in the minimum capital requirements for lenders to 400 million cedis. It placed Unibank Ghana Ltd. under administration in March and withdrew the licenses of two other banks in August last year for failing to meet capital adequacy thresholds.

The government will offer financial support to state-controlled National Investment Bank Ltd., Agricultural Development Bank Ltd. and “other indigenous banks as needed, to help them meet the minimum capital requirement,” Addison said. “Such support will be limited to indigenous banks that are solvent, well governed and managed.”

The administrator that was appointed for Unibank found that the lender “was beyond rehabilitation” after shareholders and related parties took out 5.3 billion cedis in loans and and other withdrawals without following due process, Addison said. Royal Bank’s non-performing loans constituted 79 percent of all loans granted while Sovereign, Beige and Construction obtained their operating licenses “by false pretenses through the use of suspicious and non-existent capital,” he said.

Construction Bank’s Chief Executive Officer Stephen Kpordzih declined to comment when contacted by phone. Calls to the offices of Sovereign Bank, Royal Bank and Beige Bank didn’t connect. A spokesman for Unibank wasn’t available when called at his office.

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