By Watchdog reporter

Speculation over who wants to acquire a stake in Crane bank could come to an end. Respected regional newspaper The East African reports that former Barclays Plc chief executive Bob Diamond is in talks with Crane Bank’s management to acquire a strategic stake.

Mr Diamond’s Atlas Mara Group and the Crane Bank owners have agreed in principle on the partnership but the valuation of the bank is now the sticking point.

The East African reports that the Atlas Mara Fund is insisting on a write down of Ush60 billion ($17 million) off the bank’s balance sheet.

However, the bank’s owners including Sudhir Ruparelia, who owns 28 per cent of the Bank, are against such a move.

The move would bring the overall valuation of the bank from their estimate of $300 million and closer to Atlas Mara’s target of $250 million.

A month ago, Crane Bank chairman Joseph Biribonwa said the bank was looking for a “strategic equity investor, preferably with a regional and even better a continental network.”

This was in response to speculation that the bank had sold 70 per cent of its stake to NedBank of South Africa. The bank, with an asset base of Ush1.8 trillion ($5.2 million) put off an initial public offering two years ago.

None of the parties was willing to comment on the talks but Mr Ruparelia had on September 20 told the Daily Monitor that he had “found a strategic partner.”