Mauritius group’s bid for Chase Bank firms Island nation’s grip

Customers at a Chase Bank branch. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Customers at a Chase Bank branch. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

An announcement by the deep-pocketed Mauritian firm SBM Holdings that it is among investors looking to buy a stake in Chase Bank signals the Indian Ocean island nation’s desire to firm its grip on Kenya’s financial sector-- and the economy at large.

SBM told Reuters on Friday it was bidding to buy a stake in Kenya’s Chase Bank — with plans for a bigger presence in Kenya and the region.

“SBM is bidding yes. Fidelity is a very small bank. Chase is interesting for our Africa strategy,” Ki Chong Li Kwong Wing, chairman of SBM Holdings, was quoted Friday by Reuters.

SBM acquired full ownership of Kenya’s bottom-tier lender Fidelity Bank last year, earning itself, through the deal, a presence in Kenya and the region.

SBM said then it would inject Sh1.45 billion of fresh capital into Fidelity once the deal got all the required regulatory approval. SBM Group, which operates one of Mauritius’ leading commercial banks, SBM Bank, had assets of $4.2 billion (Sh432 billion) as of September. It also operates in India and Madagascar.

Mauritian firms have adopted an aggressive expansionist stance in the local financial sector in the last few years.

They have injected more than Sh5 billion into the economy through acquisitions and investments in Kenyan companies, indicating tightening economic links between Nairobi and the Indian Ocean Island country. 

The rush to Kenya is partly spurred by a double-taxation agreement signed two years ago.