Arnold Ekpe, the outgoing group chief executive officer of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), arrived in Malawi yesterday to hold talks with government and the bankâ€™s local managers.
Ekpe was accompanied by ETIâ€™s deputy group chief executive officer Evelyn Tall and head of strategy David Lawson.
Ekpe, who is being replaced by Thierry Tanoh, a former International Finance Corporationâ€™s (IFC) vice-president for sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Western Europe, was on Wednesday expected to meet Malawi President Joyce Banda at Chikoko Bay, the official presidential holiday home in Monkey Bank, Mangochi.
The team arrived on an Ecobank corporate jet through Chileka Airport in Blantyre at 10am on the dot.
After taking two media questions, the trioâ€”accompanied by Ecobank Malawi managing director Olufemi Saluâ€”hoped on a chartered plane to Mangochi to meet the President, leaving their slick bird behind.
â€œWe are here because we want to hold discussions with the board and management of our operation here in Malawi. We also want to pay a courtesy visit to Her Excellency the President during which we will also brief her on developments within our group,â€ said Ekpe.
Today, the teamâ€”based in Lome, Togoâ€”will fly to Lilongwe today where they are scheduled to meet Finance Minister Dr Ken Lipenga and Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) governor Charles Chuka.
Cross-listed in Nigeria, Ghana and Cote dâ€™Ivoire, the pan-African banking group has a presence in 32 African countries, including Malawi.
Ecobank came to Malawi after buying Loita Bank in February 2008, a move that is in line with the groupâ€™s business model of building scale through organic growth and acquisitions while growing its businesses in existing markets and expanding into new ones.
Having been with the bank for 12 of the 25 years of its existence, Ikpeâ€”who retires in December this year aged 60â€”has presided over the bankâ€™s rapid growth from an authorised capital of $100 million (K28 billion) to the multi-billion dollar continental dinosaur it is today.
At the end of 2011, the groupâ€™s assets were $17.2 billion (nearly K5 trillion), up 64 percent on 2010.
The groupâ€™s net revenues grew by 33 percent to $1.2 billion (K336 billion)â€”just K70 billion shy of Malawiâ€™s K406 billion 2012/13 national budget.
This resulted in a 57 percent rise in profits to $207 million (K58 billion) in 2011, a figure that is just K10 billion less that the K68 billion allocated to the Ministry of Agriculture.
In Malawi, the bankâ€™s local chief, Salu, says the local operationâ€™s strategic intent is to become one of the countryâ€™s three largest banks by both assets and branch network.
But in a country where roughly 60 percent of the banking market is controlled by its two largest banks, National Bank of Malawi (NBM) and Standard Bank, reaching that goal could be a tall order despite the groupâ€™s ability to achieve this in other countries such as Ghana where it is the top bank.
To illustrate how tough it will be to achieve its long-term goal, Ecobank Malawi made a loss of around K52.2 million in the year ended June 30 2012, according to unaudited accounts published this week.
This yearâ€™s red ink is in contrast to the K148.3 million profits chalked during the same period last year. However, the bankâ€™s assets jumped to nearly K9.2 billion as at June 30 2012 from K7.65 billion at the same moment in time last year.