Orange Said to Partner Ivorian Lender for West African Foray

(Bloomberg) -- Orange SA is partnering Ivory Coast’s Groupe NSIA to start banking operations in West Africa as the telecommunications group accelerates an expansion into financial services, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The venture plans to use the assets in Ivory Coast and Senegal that NSIA acquired from Nigeria’s Diamond Bank Plc in November, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The partnership will expand over time into neighboring countries where Orange already operates, such as in Mali, the people said.

Orange will own 75 percent of the venture, with NSIA holding the remaining stake, they said. It plans to offer retail-banking services, micro loans and insurance, the people said.

Spokesmen for NSIA and Orange’s unit in Ivory Coast declined to comment when contacted by phone. A spokesman for Orange in Paris didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

Last year, Orange started offering banking services in its home market in France and is targeting 400 million euros ($466 million) in revenues in 2018 from mobile financial services across all its markets, the company said in November. In its banking foray into Ivory Coast and Senegal, Orange is targeting Africa’s two fastest growing economies after Ethiopia with further access to an eight-nation economic bloc which shares a single currency and regulator.

The partners plan to request approval for their plans from the Central Bank of West African States later this month, the people said.

NSIA Banque, another unit of Abidjan-based NSIA, already operates as a lender in Ivory Coast and is listed on the regional stock exchange in the commercial capital, with a market value of 192 billion CFA Francs ($287 million).

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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