Attijariwafa Bank, Morocco’s biggest lender, is considering a bid for Barclays Plc’s Egyptian business and has hired UBS Group AG to prepare an offer, people with knowledge of the situation said.
The U.K. bank has received limited interest for the business after reaching out to Gulf-based banks, two of the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. The British bank has yet to receive any non-binding offers, they said.
Chief Executive Officer Jes Staley is retreating from Africa to focus on the bank’s most profitable businesses in the U.K. and the U.S. as emerging-market economies cool. Barclays sold about one-fifth of its stake in Johannesburg-based Barclays Africa Group Ltd. in the market earlier this month as part of Staley’s plan to retreat from the continent and raise cash, leaving it with just over 50 percent.
The Egyptian business, which dates back to 1864 and is aimed mainly at retail banking, could be worth more than $500 million, a person familiar with knowledge of the plan said in February. The unit employs 1,500 people and has 56 branches in cities including Cairo, Giza and Alexandria, according to its website.
African Expansion Representatives at UBS and Barclays declined to comment, while a spokeswoman for Attijariwafa wasn’t immediately able to comment.
The Moroccan bank is drawing up plans to expand into East Africa, especially Kenya and Ethiopia, and is also very keen on Nigeria and Ghana in West Africa, Chief Executive Officer Mohamed El Kettani said in February. The lender operates in at least 23 countries including Tunisia, Niger, Gabon and Cameroon.
Attijariwafa started expanding abroad in 2005 as growth opportunities in Morocco became more limited. It had expressed an interest in buying an Egyptian business from Greece’s Piraeus Bank SA, which was sold last May to Al-Ahli Bank of Kuwait.