RBC sells EC banks to homegrown operators

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Marlon Madden

Major Canadian banks continued their exodus from the Caribbean today as RBC Royal Bank of Canada agreed to sell all its banking operations in seven Eastern Caribbean nations to a consortium of  indigenous banks, the banks announced jointly.

The sale will not have any impact on the Barbados RBC Royal Bank operations, an official confirmed to Barbados TODAY.

Five island banks are to take over RBC Eastern Caribbean branches in Antigua, Dominica, Montserrat, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as regional businesses operating under RBC Royal Bank Holdings (EC) Limited in Nevis, Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The five banks – 1st National Bank of St Lucia, Antigua Commercial Bank Ltd., National Bank of Dominica Ltd., the Bank of Montserrat and Bank of Nevis Ltd – are to operate the RBC banks.

Head of RBC Caribbean Banking Rob Johnston said the transaction was subject to regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions, and should be finalized “in the coming months”.

Johnston said: “Consistent with our strategy of being a competitive leader in the markets where we operate, RBC is always evaluating opportunities for our business.

“Earlier this year, we were approached by a consortium of indigenous banks with their proposal to acquire all RBC Eastern Caribbean operations

“After a review of our operations and strategy, we determined this opportunity was a good decision for the long-term future success of RBC Caribbean, and also, that it aligned with our vision to help our clients thrive and communities prosper.”

Johnston pointed out that the bank had been in the region more than a century, adding that “we remain committed to the future of the Caribbean and to a vision of digital innovation that transcends traditional services”.

He said: “This transaction will allow us to realign and focus our strategy on Caribbean markets where we can achieve that vision most successfully.

“Self-determination is the highest level of empowerment – and the indigenous banks acquiring this business will now have an increased opportunity to influence the development of their communities.”

Back in 2007, RBC had bought the Trinidad and Tobago-based RBTT Financial Group operations in the region for about US$2.2 billion.

Financial terms of the current transaction were not disclosed. But RBC is to release its first quarter 2020 results and host an earnings conference call on February 21.

A year ago, Managing Director of RBC Barbados operations Robert De Silva said that the Canadian bank had no intention of leaving the Barbados market.

“We have been part of Barbados for 108 years. If you think about it, we have branches in the Caribbean before we had branches in Toronto, so Barbados is an important part of our Caribbean strategy and we intend to be here for the long-term,” Da Silva had said then..

In a joint statement today, Managing Director of 1st National Bank of St. Lucia Johnathan Johannes said the consortium was formed to expand the scale of the locally owned banks in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union.

Johannes said: “This transaction gives us the size and scale to play a more active role in the development of our respective countries.

“We see this transaction as the first step in achieving even greater synergies, efficiencies and cross-territory marketing opportunities “

Johannes who said the homegrown banks “embrace and eagerly anticipate that opportunity”.

The consortium was advised by accounting firm PwC Jamaica, led by Wilfred Baghaloo. He said that the transaction “demonstrates that Caribbean countries and businesses have the capacity and capability to come together when the circumstances are right”.

Back in 2014, RBC had also finalized the sale of its RBC Jamaica operations to the Sagicor Group Jamaica Limited.

The sale of the RBC operations in the Eastern Caribbean comes another Canada-based commercial band withdraws from the region, leaving sole footprints in Barbados

Scotiabank drastically scaled down its operations last month when it finalized an approximately $246 million (US$123 million) deal with Republic Financial Holdings Limited, which operates as Republic Bank.

The countries affected by the Scotiabank sale were St Maarten and the Eastern Caribbean territories of Anguilla, Grenada, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

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