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Banking

Nigerian banks: The next contenders for the top five

Union Bank’s headquarters is one of the tallest in Lagos, yet its age is showing. The contrast with the friendly and upbeat atmosphere at a bank such as Access is glaring.

At Union Bank, the hallways are filled with piles of disused furniture. In what looks like a storeroom, a painting of the building in prouder days lies neglected, propped up against a wall.

Before acknowledging Euromoney’s presence, Francis Barde, the bank’s main representative to international media, takes five minutes to finish an email, wearing his hardest Lagos scowl.

Yet even Barde is confident about the prospects of Union Bank, which was Barclays’ Nigeria unit until 1979 and has about 400 branches. "The big corporations in Nigeria never gave up on Union Bank," he says.

After becoming one of the nine institutions the central bank had to bail out in 2009, Union was the only one to get a buyer from outside the region in the central bank auction in 2011.

The US government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation financed $250 million towards African Capital Alliance, the Lagos-based private equity group that bought the bank.

The new CEO, Emeka Emuwa, was head of Citi in Nigeria until late last year.

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