Universal Merchant Bank, formerly Merchant Bank (Ghana) Limited, a bank Akufo-Addo, then in opposition, led the New Patriotic Party to accuse President John Mahama of selling to his brother; Mr Ibrahim Mahama has pledged a whopping US$100 million to support government’s one-district, one-factory policy.
According to managers of Universal Merchant Bank (UMB), the Akufo-Addo-led government’s one district, one factory initiative fits into its strategy of investing in public infrastructure for long term returns.
The Board of Directors of UMB Bank led by its Board Chairperson, Mrs. Betty Zormelo, disclosed this when they paid a courtesy call on the President Nana Akufo-Addo at the Flagstaff House in Accra last week Thursday.
Speaking during the courtesy, Managing Director of UMB, Mr John Awuah maintained that the bank is ready to inject funds into the project when government comes out with a blueprint.
“The president’s vision of one district one factory fits directly into our long term plans as a bank. We have an elaborate and a comprehensive long term plan that had a component of partnership with government sectors. Being the bank of choice for public- private arrangement, when we heard of the one district one factory, we said this is an opportune time to tap into the strategy and bring forward few of the pillars that we have said will come in the course of time,” he explained.
Fortiz Private Equity Fund, with approval of the Bank of Ghana, acquired majority shares in Merchant Bank (Ghana) limited in 2013 and later changed the name of the bank to Universal Merchant Bank.
The sale of 90% shares of the almost collapsed bank to Fortiz for GH90 million generated heated debate, sometimes acrimonious, with NPP MPs and party spokespersons openly accusing the Mahama administration of shortchanging Ghanaians.
Leading the NPP pack in objecting to the sale of Merchant Bank shares was a former presidential spokesperson, Mr Andrew Awuni and his anti-corruption organization, Center for Freedom and Accuracy.
The then NPP minority in Parliament asked the Mahama government to stop what it termed the fraudulent sale of Merchant Bank to Fortiz Equity Fund Limited, insisting that due diligence was not done in the sale of the Bank to the wholly Ghanaian owned company.
While the NPP was jabbing the Mahama government for the transaction, Mr. Andrew Awuni, a leading member of the NPP filed a suit at an Accra Commercial Court against 13 institutions and persons at the center of the sale of Merchant Bank to halt the transaction.
However, the commercial court division of an Accra High Court presided over by Sophia R. Bernasko Essah upheld Lawyer for Fortiz, Tony Lithur’s application praying the court to dismiss Mr. Andrew Awuni’s lawsuit against the transaction.
As this was ongoing, an NPP engineered supposed investigation by Joy Fm, alleged that lawyer for Mr Ibrahim Mahama’s Engineers and Planners, Mr Tony Lithur, petitioned President Mahama, then as Vice-President, to intervene on the company’s behalf when then Merchant Bank attempted to recover a debt of $38 million from E&P.
Based on this, members of the NPP accused President Mahama of conspiring with his brother to collapse Merchant bank, and only to turn around to own it (bank) using Fortiz as decoy.
But after winning power in the 2016 elections, the bank the NPP alleged was owned by the Mr Ibrahim has formally agreed to support President Akufo-Addo to achieve one of his flag ship policies.
Outlining the benefit of the investment to the bank, Mr. Awuah maintained that the move will solidify UMB as the leading bank in championing investment in the real sectors of Ghana’s economy.
“We can properly position the institution, and also to facilitate the government agenda of ensuring the success of this program. We have calibrated and recalibrated this for a long period,” he said.
“I can assure you that it’s a plan that is well thought through and UMB is 100 percent ready to start this as soon as we are very clear on the government side on the delivery of the project,” Mr. Awuah assured.
On his part, President Akufo-Addo lauded the strong partnership of his Government with UMB Bank to establish a Public Private Partnership Incubation Centre to Support Government’s One District One Factory initiative.
The President described the announcement as one of his birthday gifts, saying it is welcome news to him and his government. He tasked the Trade and Industry Ministry to strongly partner with the bank to ensure that the product of the bank is harnessed by interested businesses who buy into the one district, one factory vision of the government.
On her part, the Board Chairperson, Mrs Betty Zormelo stated that the experience of UMB as a Merchant Bank will be leveraged a “UMB PPP Incubator Centre” solely for the purpose of supporting the needs of enterprises that seek to partner with the government on the “One District, One Factory” concept.
“We at UMB are “Big on Small Business” and we see this as an opportunity to offer our expertise in the sustainable implementation of this transformational agenda. She continued to state that “we understand the business of banking SME’s and know that SMEs do not grow by simply advancing loans to them. The UMB PPP Incubator Centre will therefore provide a range of services and technical support, with the aid of our Investment Banking affiliate, UMB Capital”.
The Centre will also provide the following services, among others
* Linking Local Businesses to International and local partnership and funding sources
* Business Advisory services, including: corporate governance, business strategy, internal controls, business development initiatives, marketing and succession planning, among other things.
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