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FirstRand eyes retail banking in Nigeria - CEO

FirstRand has launched merchant banking in Lagos and is aiming to be a top 5 bank.

Finance

LAGOS - FirstRand would use Thursday's launch of its new merchant banking business in Nigeria as a springboard to move into retail and commercial lending in Africa's second biggest economy, the bank's chief said.

South Africa's number two lender won Nigeria's first merchant banking license in more than a decade last November and opened its doors in Lagos on Thursday.

Now it wants to expand its operations in Nigeria, organically or through an acquisition, First Rand Chief Executive Sizwe Nxasana told Reuters in Lagos during the launch of Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) Nigeria.

"We are looking at having a universal banking operation in Nigeria ... growing on the back of our investment banking operations into the retail and commercial banking," he said.

"Our appetite for Nigeria is growing and we are going to be looking at opportunities that will put us in a position where we are becoming a seeded player ... in other words among the top five banks in Nigeria in the next few years."

FirstRand has been looking for an entry into Africa's most populous country for years. It ended talks last year to buy a majority stake in Nigeria's Sterling Bank after they both failed to agree on price.

Nxasana said FirstRand was still interested in acquiring one of the three banks, Mainstreet Bank, Keystone Bank and Enterprise Bank that were nationalised two years ago, but could also enter retail operations on its own.

FirstRand in November had said it could spend more than $300 million to buy a retail and commercial bank in Nigeria.

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