140 Avenue Hassan II
Casablanca, 20 000
Telephone: (+212) 52 2498004
Fax: (+212) 52 0205054
Web site: https://www.bmcebank.ma/
Employees: 6,000 (est.)
Total Assets: MAD 306 billion ($30 billion) (2016)
Stock Exchanges: Bourse de Casablanca
Ticker Symbol: BMCE
NAICS: 551111 Offices of Bank Holding Companies
With about $30 billion in assets, Banque Marocaine du Commerce Extérieur S.A., commonly known as BMCE Bank of Africa, is one of the largest commercial banking groups in Morocco. Based in Casablanca, it provides banking products and services to individuals, professionals, and business customers, including Moroccans living abroad. It operates internationally through BMCE Bank International and is involved in investment banking through the subsidiary BMCA Capital. Its retail arm, BMCE Bank, maintains about 700 branches in Morocco and representative offices in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. The majorityowned Bank of Africa operates in 18 African countries through a network of 16 commercial banks, a mortgage bank, a pair of investment companies, and other financial services companies. BMCE is a public company listed on the Bourse de Casablanca (Casablanca Stock Exchange).
BMCE was established as a public bank by the Moroccan government in 1959, with the goal to stimulate foreign trade. It added a branch in Tangier, Morocco, in 1965. BMCE became the first Moroccan bank to establish a presence outside the country when, in 1972, it opened an agency in Paris. Three years later, in 1975, the bank held a public offering of stock, but it remained majority-owned by the Moroccan government.
During the early 1980s Morocco embarked on an economic reform program, and a decade later the country was promoting itself as an emerging economy in the southern Mediterranean. BMCE adapted to the new business environment, but like other Moroccan banks, it advocated for the lifting of regulations that it contended created artificial barriers and hindered growth. Although an effort to privatize the banking sector unfolded, BMCE continued an expansion program. Agencies in Madrid and Brussels were opened during the late 1980s.
As Morocco's privatization program continued, BMCE's sale proved difficult. According to Jon Marks in the Middle East Economic Digest in December 1994, “BMCE is the most complex privatisation to date, given the nature of the bank's shareholding and the opposition from within the administration to its sale. There has been pressure for a 64 per cent core stake to remain in Moroccan hands.” Even so, the government wanted to expand BMCE's foreign shareholding base to enhance the bank's ability to compete on the international scene. There was also reluctance to sell certain parts of the bank, but the government was committed to selling as much of the operations as possible to ensure that BMCE moved fully into the private sector.
In 1995, 1.4 million shares of BMCE were put on the market and supported by a television advertising campaign that featured popular movie stars. The offering was oversubscribed by more than five times. Following the public stock sale, the government also sold a 26 percent stake in BMCE to a consortium of domestic and foreign investors.
Heading the consortium was Othman Benjelloun, a Moroccan businessman and engineer by training who had been involved in the insurance industry before turning his attention to banking. To make a successful bid for BMCE against stiff competition, he assembled a group of investment partners that included Germany's Commerzbank, Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, Morgan Stanley, and funds managed by the U.S. investor George Soros. After the completion of BMCE's privatization in 1995, Benjelloun agreed to serve as president and CEO for the first year. More than 20 years later, he remained in charge. His family-controlled company, Finance.com , would also become BMCE's largest shareholder.
Under Benjelloun's leadership, BMCE launched an aggressive expansion program. In 1996 it made a global depositary receipt (GDR) offering on the London Stock Exchange, the first Moroccan bank to complete such an issuance. The bank initially set a target of $50 million, but it ultimately received commitments of $217 million. For about 70 percent of the investors it was the first time they had ever invested in Morocco. Not only did the success of the offering elevate BMCE's status but also it opened the door to other Moroccan banks to come to market.
BMCE expanded its operations in Morocco in 1997 with the establishment of Salafin, a consumer credit company. BMCE Capital was created in 1998 to serve as the investment banking arm of the BMCE Group. That same year the Leader 2000 program was launched with the goal of making BMCE the largest financial institution in Morocco. Noncore operations, in particular legacy assets in real estate, tourism, and public relations that no longer fit the portfolio, were divested. Meanwhile, assets that were more appropriate for the new BMCE were targeted. For example, in January 1998 BMCE acquired shares in Maghrebail, a leading Moroccan leasing company.
BMCE also expanded internationally, but under a different business model. Previously, the bank had attempted to establish its own separate identity. Benjelloun, however, sought to develop closer relations with partner banks. In 1997 a representative office opened in a partner bank in Germany. It was followed by similar setups in London, Italy, and the Netherlands. In this way, BMCE maintained a presence in key financial centers but at a minimal cost. In New York, BMCE invested in the Arab America Bank to gain a foothold in the United States. BMCE expanded into Japan with help from the Tokyo-based Nomura Holdings Inc., which had participated in the GDR offering and in 1997 acquired the 10 percent stake owned by the Moroccan state holding company Caisse de Depot & de Gestion.
In 2003 Commerzbank began selling its 15 percent interest in BMCE, prompting BMCE to seek out an international partner to serve as a replacement. During the fall of 2003 it settled on France's Caisse Nationale des Caisses d'Epargne, which offered $166.4 million for a 20 percent stake in BMCE. After the deal was rejected by monetary authorities, rumors circulated that BMCE planned to merge with Banque Commercial du Maroc, Morocco's largest private bank. Although BMCE admitted that the idea of a merger had been raised by the two parties following the termination of the deal with the French bank, BMCE insisted that the talks had been cursory. Indeed, less than a month later Banque Commercial du Maroc announced a merger agreement with Wafabank. In 2004 BMCE found an international partner in France's Crédit Industriel et Commercial, which acquired a 10 percent interest. Four years later, in 2008, Crédit Industriel added another 5 percent.
BMCE began an expansion program in 2005, with the goal to open as many as 50 bank branches annually. By the end of fiscal 2006 it claimed a total of 288 branches in 11 countries. In calendar year 2006 BMCE launched Axis Capital, an investment bank in Tunisia. BMCE also expanded through external means. In 2007 it acquired a 35 percent stake in the Bank of Africa, which was a rapidly growing West African multinational banking concern.
The Bank of Africa had been established in Mali in 1982. Later, African Financial Holding was established to serve as the parent company and act as a vehicle for expansion across the African continent. Bank of Africa subsidiaries opened in Madagascar in 1999 and Senegal in 2001. Banque de L'Habitat Du Bénin was launched in 2004, as was the Bank of Kenya. In early 2007 a bank was established in Uganda, and following BMCE's investment, later in the year the Bank of Africa established a subsidiary in Tanzania. In 2008 BMCE increased its interest in the Bank of Africa to 42.5 percent.
In the meantime, BMCE established an international wholesale and investment banking arm in London under the name MediCapital Bank. It was floated on the Casablanca Stock Exchange in December 2009. The following year the company was rebranded as BMCE Bank International. It was involved in retail banking, corporate banking, investment banking, and international banking and maintained a network of offices that covered most of Africa.
The BMCE Group expanded on multiple fronts during the second decade of the 21st century. The Bank of Africa opened a unit in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in April 2010. The following month it launched the start-up finance company BOA-FRANCE, and at the end of the year it acquired a bank in Djibouti. In 2011 the Bank of Africa acquired another local bank to establish the Bank of Africa–Ghana. To cater to Moroccans abroad, BMCE established the subsidiary BMCE EuroServices in 2013, which offered a wide range of banking products and services. In 2014 BMCE opened a representative office in Canada in partnership with the Desjardins Group. In 2015 BMCE increased its interest in the Bank of Africa to 75 percent. The majority-owned company was subsequently recast as BMCE Bank of Africa.
BMCE Bank International; BMCE Bank of Africa; BMCE Capital.
Attijariwafa Bank S.A.; Banque Populaire du Maroc S.A.; Société Générale Maroc.
“BMCE Group Bridges Out.” Banker, December 1, 2007.
Marks, Jon. “Marketing the Charms of Morocco.” Middle East Economic Digest, March 6, 1998, 22.
———. “Privatization Plan under Pressure.” Middle East Economic Digest, December 9, 1994, 6.
———. “Reform Shakes up a Sleepy System.” Middle East Economic Digest, February 26, 1993, 16.
Melly, Paul. “Building a Presence in Africa.” Middle East Economic Digest, December 5, 2008, 69.
“Morocco's BMCE Bank of Africa to Open Branch in China.” Xinhua News Agency, July 14, 2018.
Versi, Anver. “Morocco Looks South.” African Business, June 2007, S38.