When Chase Bank was put up for sale last year, many eyes were trained on Joshua Oigara. The KCB Group which he heads had taken over management of Chase Bank in April 2016 after it was put under receivership and thus was seen as the best suitor for a bank it was literally baby-sitting.
Yet when the ailing bank really needed a buyer, KCB was not among the bidders, which left many wondering whether it feared something it had noticed.
KCB Chief Executive Joshua Oigara looks back at those moments with a smile as if to say the reason it kept off was so obvious. “Chase bank was looking for a new buyer or owner,” says Mr Oigara. “Since we were the bank that was curating it, we never offered to buy it. The bidding process needed a level playing field and our participation would have made field uneven since we were insiders.”
Eventually, of 12 shortlisted bidders, Mauritian lender SBM Holdings emerged winner. As part of the deal, SBM will acquire the lender’s assets and liabilities and absorb Chase Bank’s staff estimated at 1,300 in about 62 branches.
SBM Group is one of the largest banking and financial services institutions listed on the Stock Exchange of Mauritius with a market capitalization of approximately $700 million as at 31 July 2017 and total assets of over $5 billion as at 30 June 2017.
Mr Oigara says KCB is, in fact, preparing to hand over the bank to Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation (KDIC) on February 15th this year.
This will mark a milestone both for CBK in ensuring a bank that stared death in the face was resuscitated and to KCB for being the first bank in Kenya to successfully rehabilitate a troubled financial institution. KDIC will then hand over the bank to its new owners.
“We are currently doing handing over notes,” Mr Oigara said during an interview with Business Editors last week.
Taking up Chase Bank would have significantly expanded the bank’s asset base. Also, KCB’s eye could be focused on a different deal: there has been talk of the bank courting National Bank of Kenya, which would prove a better buy.