S. Africa’s FirstRand looking at Nigeria as valuations become attractive – Reuters

JOHANNESBURG Oct 5 (Reuters) – FirstRand, South Africa’s biggest lender by value, is taking another look at Nigeria since a sharp economic slowdown has left asset prices “much more realistic”, its chairman said.

Nigerian banks have come under pressure in recent months after the central bank suspended nine of them from foreign exchange transactions for failing to remit money owed to the government. A slowdown in the oil producer has raised concerns that the West African country could slip into a recession.

“We believe that asset prices in jurisdictions such as Nigeria have recently become much more realistic,” FirstRand chairman Laurie Dippenaar said in annual report posted on the company’s website.

“We feel more comfortable to look for opportunities to deploy shareholder capital for acquisitions to assist us in scaling up our operations.”

Dippenaar’s comments may signal a reversal of the lender’s strategy of looking for growth in more developed markets due to slowing growth and rising risks elsewhere in Africa.

(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng, editing by Louise Heavens)