Kenya's Equity Group eyes the trillion mark

You might think that this is no time for commercial banks to be making acquisitions, but even though profits at Kenya's Equity Group - as at other banks - have taken a hit, its chief executive James Mwangi is bullish about a recent foray into the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"This year, 40% of our assets will be outside, reducing the sovereign risk and truly becoming a regional bank."

In August Equity Group completed the 105 million US dollar purchase of two-thirds of the shares in Banque Commerciale du Congo with a viewing to amalgamating DRC's oldest bank with its existing Equity Bank Congo subsidiary.

"We think BCDC and Equity combined together would be a $2.5 billion balance sheet by the end of this year."

Mwangi says that's put Equity's balance sheet on course for the one trillion mark by the end of the year.

One trillion Kenyan shillings that is, or around 9 billion US dollars.

"I am really glad that we prudently and conservatively fortified our balance sheet."

But the CEO also acknowledges that the banking sector faces a difficult future.

"But undoubtedly we will see that banks are going through lean times, maybe for the next two years."

Mwangi says lockdown measures have affected around 45% of Equity's customers.

The bank's loan loss provisions grew 11-fold to 14.3 billion shillings in the first nine months of the year.

Over the same period it saw a 20% drop in pretax profit to 19.8 billion shilling, or around 180 million US dollars.