Diamond’s Atlas Mara Hits Turbulence, Posts Loss In First Quarter

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Written by Kevin Mwanza

Atlas Mara, an investment vehicle partly owned by former Barclays Chief executive Bob Diamond, recorded a $2 million loss in the first three months of this year dragged lower by poor performance in its Southern Africa business.

The company, which made a $11.3 million profit in 2015, said it still expected to sparse last year’s performance, Reuters reported.

While its West Africa and East Africa businesses pulled in profits of $6.9 million and $0.7 million respectively in the first quarter of this year, the Southern Africa business lost $6.3 million.

The company was also affected by weak African currencies, which cost it a$1.1 million, and tough economic environment hurts its banking business.

“This level of performance is clearly below where we want to be, notwithstanding the challenges of a more difficult economic backdrop and the full impact of weaker exchange rates across our markets,” The Wall Street Journal quoted Chief Executive John Vitalo saying.

“We have clear cost reduction plans and revenue initiatives to ensure that the group is positioned to tackle current headwinds,” he added.

Diamond, who resigned from Barclays in July 2012 under a cloud of the Libor rate-rigging scandal and claims of overpayment, is among a number of investors who have shown interest in buying Barclays assets in Africa.

His investment firm Atlas Mara, which he co-owns with entrepreneur and Africa’s youngest billionaire Ashish J. Thakkar,  aims to become one of the top banking sector players in Africa.

Atlas Mara has been on a buying spree across the continent’ financial markets and currently has investments in over seven African countries.

The company, co-owned by Dubai-based African billionaire businessman Ashish Thakkar, has raised $625 million in two fundraisings since 2013 and invested it in financial institutions across seven African countries.

It plans to enter three to five more African countries before consolidating all its investments into one brand in the next three years.

Some analysts are predicting a difficult time for Africa’s banking business as the boom years that were driven by rising commodity prices fade away, Bloomberg reported.