Sahara issue looms over Saham-Sanlam $1.1 bln deal

Head of Morocco’s BMCE Bank, the third largest bank in the country, criticized the sale of Saham insurance business to South Africa’s Sanlam as detrimental to Morocco’s interest.

Speaking at a press conference, head of BMCE Othmane Benjeloun deplored the sale worth $1.1 billion on grounds that South Africa supports the Polisario separatists.

“We end up with a South African investor, owning a company that was Moroccan, on our own territory,” Benjelloun said.

“We will applaud the fact that Saham stays South African” when Pretoria changes track regarding the Sahara, he said. “Until they do, they are not getting our support.”

Saham Finances SA is seeking more acquisitions to cement its position as the continent’s largest financial-services firm outside of banking, Bloomberg reports.

South Africa’s support for the Polisario has disrupted relations between the two countries. Pretoria last month accepted the accreditation of Morocco’s new ambassador. The kingdom recalled its ambassador in 2004 after South Africa officially recognized the Front Polisario.

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