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First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Plc, one of Nigeria’s fastest growing banks is partnering with Sabre Capital Worldwide, a specialist financial services private equity and management firm, in an effort that will change the face of consumer banking in Nigeria.

Management says this partnership will see Sabre Capital assisting FCMB in raising capital internationally. In addition, Sabre Capital will provide management support to FCMB, especially in the areas of consumer banking, operations, customer service, IT and risk management, with an objective to ensure that FCMB becomes the leading consumer banking franchise in Nigeria, a competitive regional player and delivers substantial shareholder value within the next five years.

This partnership will also see FCMB become the African banking partner to an imminent pan-African financial services private equity fund to be managed by Sabre and focused on acquiring and managing banks and other financial services businesses in other African countries.

The Sabre Capital partnership involves prominent international bankers such as Rana Talwar, former Group CEO of Standard Chartered Plc, Harpal S. Randhawa, former Vice Chairman of Seymour Pierce, a London based asset management and investment banking firm, and Nigel Kenny, former Group Finance Director of Standard Chartered Plc.

Nigel Kenny has already assume Board positions in FCMB as non-executive director.

According to a press statement by management, “the arrangement will bring a host of benefits to FCMB. Firstly, it will expand the organisation’s international reach and through the private equity fund relationship, enhance the opportunity for FCMB to establish a truly pan-African presence. Secondly, Sabre’s Board involvement will significantly strengthen the bank’s corporate governance. The initiative will bring significant international talent to FCMB in areas previously underdeveloped in the Nigerian banking environment, such as consumer banking. The collaboration will create significant shareholder value. Sabre’s capacity to raise and provide capital will also enhance the success of FCMB’s intended debut on the international capital markets.”

Ladi Balogun, MD/CEO of FCMB recently told the financial press that this partnership has great substance as it addresses many of FCMB’s strategic needs and provides a win-win structure in which rewards are based on the creation of shareholder value.

The partnership has already begun deploying resources towards the attainment of the joint objectives. Few partnerships between African and Western counterparts, particularly in banking, are so well aligned.

Sabre Capital is a proven layer in emerging market retail banking. In the first quarter of 2004, Sabre Capital acquired the loss making Centurion Bank with negative shareholders funds in India. By bringing US$150-million to the table and injecting management talent, Sabre Capital within 24 months transformed the organization into India’s fifth largest private bank with a market capitalization of nearly $1-billion.

FCMB is one of Nigeria’s fastest growing banks, with interests in wholesale and retail banking, investment banking and capital markets services. The bank’s deposit base and earnings have grown by over 198 percent and 184 percent in the last 12 months. Currently the bank has 90 operational branches, total assets of N130-billion and shareholders funds in excess of N30-billion. This partnership will further differentiate FCMB in the competitive landscape and bring it a step closer to attaining its ambitious, yet increasingly realizable goals.

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