Helios acquires Crown Agents’ financial services units

The pan-Africa firm has completed the acquisition of the former British statutory corporation following regulatory approval.

Helios Investment Partners, a pan-African private equity firm, has completed the acquisition of the financial services units of Crown Agents following regulatory approval, according to a statement from the firm.

Helios has acquired 100 percent of Crown Agents Bank (CAB) and Crown Agents Investment Management (CAIM), which have combined assets under management of $2.7 billion.

Crown Agents is an international development company that partners with governments, aid organisations and the private sector in nearly 100 countries. It was set up in 1833 as a British statutory corporation to manage grants, raise capital, recruit personnel, and ship supplies to British colonies, and privatised in 1997.

Crown Agents Bank and its sister asset management company provide payments, trade finance, foreign exchange and investment management services to frontier and emerging markets, primarily in Africa, the Caribbean and South-East Asia, and “act as a commercial gateway for entities seeking to operate in these regions,” according to the statement.

Helios’ investment, which was agreed last summer, will “add financial resources to better meet the growing needs of CAB and CAIM’s customers”, the firm said.

Richard Jones, managing director of CAB and CAIM, said a stronger capital base would allow the units to enhance its services to existing and new clients “during a time of widespread retreat by mainstream banks from emerging markets, enabling us to help our clients maximise their commercial opportunities”.

The acquisition is the firm’s fourth from Helios Investors III, which closed on $1.1 billion in early 2015, exceeding its $1 billion target.

Helios III is looking to acquire and build platform companies operating in the core economic sectors of the key African countries, investing between $30 million and $200 million of equity per transaction.

Other investments in the vehicle include a majority stake in Oando’s Nigeria-based downstream energy business, acquired alongside Netherlands-based Vitol Group for $276 million; a 12.4 percent stake in Africa Oil Corp. acquired for $100 million, and a minority stake in ARM Pensions, Nigeria’s largest independent pension fund manager.