Moulay Hafid Elalamy's takeover of Société Générale Maroc: the facts behind the rumours

The possible takeover of Societe Generale's Moroccan subsidiary by the Saham Group is causing a stir in the business world, with Moulay Hafid Elalamy's return to the limelight being closely scrutinized. If the deal goes through, it could mark the beginning of the end for French banks in Morocco and Africa. Read on.


For the past few days, it’s been THE topic of conversation in the business world: Moulay Hafid Elalamy’s grand return to the financial arena. Six years after his withdrawal from the insurance sector, following the sale of Saham Assurance to the South African group Sanlam, the former Minister of Industry and Trade is said to be on the verge of completing, through his holding company, the purchase of Société Générale France’s shares in its Moroccan subsidiary. The deal would involve a 57.66% stake in Société Générale Maroc for around 8 billion dirhams.

To date, no official communication has confirmed the completion of this operation. Contacted on several occasions, both parties refrain from commenting on the market rumors, which have been persistent since last week, without denying them. From a regulatory point of view, the validation of a transaction of this magnitude cannot be effective without the green light from the public authorities: the Competition Council to control economic concentration, and Bank Al-Maghrib to grant a new license to the bank. To date, neither authority has announced that it has been notified of the transaction. In accordance with the law on freedom of pricing and competition, the Council must issue a press release within five days of receiving any notification file.

Nevertheless, at the end of the latest Bank Al-Maghrib Board meeting, held yesterday, Tuesday March 20, the wali of the Central Bank Abdellatif Jouahri revealed that he had received the group’s top management, who informed him of the prudential constraints weighing on Société Générale in Africa, hinting at its intention to withdraw from Morocco, alongside other subsidiaries on the continent. « The law is clear: in the event of a change in shareholding exceeding 50%, a new approval is required. I’ve asked them to think it over and come back to us once they’re ready and the decision has been made. We’ll need to examine the industrial project, the business plan, the added value that the new buyer will bring, and be convinced that the operation will be beneficial for both the bank and the State. In this case, we will grant the new approval », emphasized Abdellatif Jouahri.

According to data from the Moroccan Capital Market Authority (AMMC), the banking group’s current shareholding structure remains split between Société Générale France (57.6%), the Aït Mzal family’s Deveco Souss group (27.54%), Mohamed Tazi’s Patrimoine Gestion et Placements holding company (3.23%) and various other shareholders (11.56%).

The jackpot?

Former Minister of Industry, Investment, Commerce and the Digital Economy, Moulay Hafid ElalamyCrédit: TNIOUNI

If the deal goes through, it could well be the deal of the year. Moulay Hafid Elalamy would take control of the fourth-largest bank in Morocco, behind Attijariwafa bank, Banque Populaire and Bank of Africa. With around 400 branches, more than 3,000 employees and one million customers, Société Générale Maroc is in excellent financial health. At the end of 2023, the Group’s consolidated net banking income (NBI) stood at 5.57 billion dirhams, up 7.3% on the previous year. Net banking income (NBI) amounted to MAD 4.82 billion, up 9.1% on 2022.

Last year, the bank’s deposits remained stable, at 87.28 billion dirhams (0.21%) consolidated and 80.65 billion (0.74%) social. On the credit side, outstandings amounted to 94.3 billion dirhams in consolidated terms and 80.09 billion in corporate terms, down 1.23% and 1.21% respectively on the previous year.

In addition to commercial banking, the acquisition of a majority stake in Société Générale Maroc would enable the businessman to gain control of around ten of the banking group’s subsidiaries, which operate in various financial sectors. These include Eqdom, the listed consumer credit specialist, 53.72%-owned by Société Générale Maroc, and La Marocaine Vie, a 48.01%-owned insurance company. Other subsidiaries include Sogelease Maroc, a major player in the country’s equipment and property leasing market, the mutual fund management company Sogecapital Gestion, the stock exchange company Sogecapital Bourse, and the Group’s offshore bank, all of which are wholly owned by the French banking group’s Moroccan subsidiary.

A « strategic plan

For Societe Generale France, the sale of its Moroccan subsidiary is part of a vast policy of withdrawal from the African market, at a time when the bank is seeking to make significant savings by implementing a new « strategic plan ». This plan, the first of its kind under the leadership of Slawomir Krupa, CEO since May 2023, aims to save 1.7 billion euros by 2026 in order to improve the bank’s profitability after several years of rollercoaster results, marked by financial crises and scandals.

Last June, the group with the red and black logo began to scale back its operations on the continent, announcing its withdrawal from Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Chad and Mauritania, and revealing at the same time that a « strategic review » was underway for Tunisia, where it is represented by Union Internationale de Banques (UIB), in which it holds a 52.3% stake. Five months later, in December 2023, the French bank announced the sale of its subsidiaries in Burkina Faso and Mozambique.

But unlike its Moroccan subsidiary, the regional leader with 22.5% of all revenues generated by the parent company in Africa, the other six subsidiaries were not as strategic for the group, which wishes to « focus on markets where it holds a leading position« . In Burkina Faso, for example, Société Générale has just 17 branches and employs around 280 people. In Mozambique, its presence is limited to 6 branches, with around 140 employees.

Saving the furniture

The sale of Société Générale Maroc was a real « coup de théâtre » for financial specialists who, until recently, were betting on the preservation of the Group’s flagship in Africa. Analysts polled by TelQuel explain this potential withdrawal by several reasons, both strategic, economic and regulatory. « Société Générale has not been doing very well in recent months, and the markets are dubious about its ability to bounce back. Difficult projects have been carried out without any real added value, such as the merger with Crédit du Nord.What’smore, the Group has had to contend with regulatory and ethical problems, which have led to fines and damaged the brand’s image« , explains a former executive of the French bank.

« Faced with so many constraints on the continent, you have to act quickly and sell to get the best price, while trying to restore your image with the markets and shareholders »

A former Societe Generale executive

The corporate strategy consultant is referring to the 4.5 million euro fine imposed on Société Générale in France in January 2024 for unjustified bank charges levied between 2019 and 2021. The bank has acknowledged the facts and assures that it has reimbursed the customers concerned. In terms of performance, the group saw its net income, group share (RNPG) fall by 59.8% year-on-year, to 430 million euros. In the last three months of the fiscal year, NBI for France’s third-largest bank by market capitalization fell by 9.9% to 5.96 billion euros. Market activities were down by 0.8%.

The specialist explains that several additional factors have added to the bank’s difficulties in Africa in recent months. In addition to a decline in the return on equity invested on the continent, the bank has had to contend with stiff local competition from « powerful and innovative » pan-African groups. These include Ecobank, present in 35 African countries and 27%-owned by Qatar National Bank, the Nigerian Access Bank, present in 15 countries across the continent, and Bank of Africa and Attijariwafa bank, with 19 and 12 African subsidiaries respectively.

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Selling its shares in Société Générale Maroc would therefore be a strategic move aimed at making the most of the Moroccan subsidiary’s current valuation. The latter is maintaining its local market share and achieving excellent results, while at the same time having untapped potential, notably linked to European prudential regulations. « Faced with so many constraints on the continent, you have to act quickly and sell to get the best price, while trying to restore your image with the markets and shareholders (…) From Saham’s point of view, this is a great opportunity. There isstill considerable room for manoeuvre to develop the bank outside the European guidelines and their excessive prudential rules », says the former banker.

Loss of monopoly

Other factors, more political and cultural, may also explain this trend towards the disengagement of French banks from the continent. Societe Generale is not alone: other major French groups began to sell off their heritage in Africa some years ago. Crédit Agricole was the first French bank to sell off its African subsidiaries after the 2008 financial crisis. The latest to do so was the sale of its entire 78.7% stake in Crédit du Maroc to the Bensalah family’s Holmarcom group.

In 2018, the mutual group BPCE (Banque Populaire, Caisse d’Épargne, Natixis) sold almost all its African banks. BNP Paribas followed suit, having sold its subsidiaries in Comoros, Gabon, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Tunisia, before selling its 54.11%-owned Senegalese subsidiary to the pan-African financial services group SUNU in 2022.

« The rise in political risk in certain African countries, the issues of embargoes, corruption, KYC (know your customer), the lack of competent senior executives who are familiar with local practices, habits and customs that are very different from those encountered on other continents, cumbersome IT systems and inadequate governance, the inability to forge the right partnerships to succeed in digital transformation locally and position themselves on the mobile banking market, which is vital in Africa, have all precipitated the withdrawal of French banks from the continent« , explains this other business intelligence consultant.


The prospect of local players taking over the former subsidiaries of French banking groups is, on the whole, viewed positively by market players, for whom this disengagement would represent a unique opportunity to consolidate the financial health and influence of pan-African groups. « African players today are extremely dynamic and focused on their markets, customers, countries and regions, with a strong propensity to innovate and invest in human capital. This is something that French groups have totally lost sight of on the other side of the Mediterranean. These African players have also understood that the network goes beyond the continent’s borders, by investing in strongholds such as London, Paris, Beijing and Dubai« , stresses this former Société Générale France executive.

For Moroccan groups, this is another opportunity to expand and open up further to the African market. In addition to the strong presence of Bank of Africa, Attijariwafa bank and the BCP group, market rumors suggest that, in addition to Société Générale Maroc, Moulay Hafid El Alamy would also be interested in taking over the French bank’s shares in its subsidiaries in Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Benin and Togo.

If the takeover of Société Générale Maroc is confirmed, there will be only one French-owned bank left in Morocco: BMCI, a subsidiary of the BNP Paribas group, which holds a 66.74% stake. Here too, according to some African media, Zouhair Bennani, founder of the LabelVie group, is interested in the takeover. Contacted by TelQuel, the businessman said he was « far from this information and its potential origin » and assured us he would communicate on it when he had « something to reveal« .

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