Wednesday, October 8, 2014

S.Africa's Liberty eyes Ethiopia, Rwanda as Ghana deal nears completion

* Still keen on Nigerian acquisitions

* Fundraising for pan-African property fund

By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 8 (Reuters) - South African insurer Liberty Holdings is in the final stages of buying an asset management firm in Ghana and is also looking to Ethiopia, Rwanda and Nigeria for potential deals, its chief executive said on Wednesday.
Like many other South African companies, Liberty is looking past its mature home country for opportunities in fast-growing sub-Saharan markets. The strategy is in line with that of its top shareholder, Standard Bank, which is also expanding widely on the continent.

Liberty, which has a presence in 15 other African countries, is in the final stages of acquiring the asset management firm in Ghana, Chief Executive Thabo Dloti told Reuters in an interview, declining to give further details on the deal.


"Ethiopia and Rwanda, we are interested in. In Ethiopia, there are hurdles to go over because foreign ownership is not allowed," he said, adding it could look to partner with a local firm in Ethiopia.

Liberty is also hoping to acquire an insurer and an asset manager in Nigeria in the near future, he said. The company has been keen on the Nigerian market for years, but until now talks there have borne no fruit.

Insurance penetration in Nigeria, Africa's biggest economy, is about 2 percent, compared with about 20 percent in South Africa, the continent's most developed economy.

Liberty has representative offices in both Tanzania and South Sudan that are run out of Kenya. In South Sudan, all the business is with government bodies.

The company is currently fundraising for a 500-800 million rand ($45-$72 million) pan-African property fund by March 2015, Dloti said. The fund will have a 25-year outlook and will invest chiefly in high-end developments in Lagos and Nairobi.

Liberty also plans to launch a real estate investment trust for Kenya, he said.

Liberty shares are little changed so far this year, underperforming a nearly 4 percent rise in Johannesburg's All-Share index.

(1 US dollar = 11.1739 South African rand) (Reporting by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; editing by Susan Thomas)
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