Business News of 2014-03-12

Ecobank names Albert Essien to replace Thierry Tanoh as CEO

The board of Ecobank Transnational Inc. has nominated Albert Essien to replace Thierry Tanoh as chief executive officer at the lender that operates in the most nations in Africa.

Tanoh’s term as CEO and a director at the company will end tomorrow, the Lome, Togo-based bank said in an e-mailed statement today. Essien was deputy CEO and group executive director for corporate and investment banking. Laurence do Rego is reinstated immediately as group executive director of finance and risk, the bank said.

The lender’s largest shareholder, South Africa’s Public Investment Corp., had called for Tanoh to quit after allegations of mismanagement, which he denies. The board met today in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, after an extraordinary general meeting last week in Lome. Shareholders decided to keep the 12-member board and approved a plan to improve corporate governance following recommendations byNigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission.

“We have faced challenges at the governance level in the recent past, but they are not insurmountable,” Essien said in the statement. “We have put in place a detailed governance action plan which will strengthen us to meet these challenges. We have put in place measures to improve our controls and systems as required, further to completion of all internal and external reviews.”

Shares Decline

Nigeria’s regulator investigated the lender after do Rego told the SEC in August that Tanoh and former Chairman Kolapo Lawson planned to sell assets below market value. Do Rego said she was pressured to write off debts owed by a business headed by Lawson and manipulate the bank’s results. Tanoh and Lawson have denied any wrongdoing.

Ecobank’s shares listed in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, declined 3.3 percent to 14.50 naira at the 2:30 p.m. close, extending this year’s fall to 10 percent.

Tanoh’s mobile phone was busy when called for comment and he didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail.B