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The sale of 49% of Zambia National Commercial Bank (ZNCB) is moving along, with a leading South African bank now in the preferred bidder stage. The Zambian government is selling off the bank, bringing in a strategic investor. The sale should be complete by the end of the year.

The government is retaining a shareholding in the bank, although unfettered control will revert to the strategic investor, regardless of its own stake in ZNCB.

The Zambian government is under pressure from the World Bank to privatise ZNCB, although this has met with political resistance domestically.

“The bank’s in a big mess,” says one source, “and so the strategic investor will clean it up. But a lot of self-interests are at stake by a move such as this.”

The World Bank is hoping that the ZNCB sale will mirror the successes in Uganda and Tanzania where state bank sell offs have worked well. Stanbic bought 80% of Uganda Commercial Bank in November 2001, while Absa bought 70% of National Bank of Commerce in Tanzania in March 2000. Kenya Commercial Bank is being mooted for similar treatment.