Ghana’s largest IPO at risk as government drags its feet

The largest initial public offering in Ghana’s history is at risk of falling apart after Agricultural Development Bank Ltd. missed a deadline to submit results of the sale to the nation’s regulator.

The lender is waiting for its owners — the Bank of Ghana and the Ministry of Finance — to sign off on the outcome of the IPO, Solomon Atefoe, a spokesman for the Accra-based bank, said Friday in a text message. The Securities and Exchange Commission set a new deadline of May 5, he said, after the bank missed an initial target of April 11 that would have seen its shares start trading two weeks later.

The bank’s sale has been slowed by lawsuits, protests from employees and government infighting since it was first proposed in 2012. ADB, as the lender is known, raised 450 million cedis ($118 million) last month in the IPO, the nation’s largest and the first in about two years. The stock market operator has been looking to the sale to encourage others to list and boost sagging trading volume. The exchange’s index fell into a bear market earlier this year.

“At a point these extensions will stop,” said Jacob Aidoo, head of issuers at the SEC. If the bank doesn’t have a legitimate reason for missing the new deadline, “the response would be to return money to the people who bought shares, with interest,” Aidoo said.

The Ghana Stock Exchange Composite Index has lost 8 percent this year, after a 12 percent decline in 2015.

Bank of Ghana Deputy Governor Millison Narh, who oversees banking, said he wasn’t immediately able to comment when reached by phone. Minister of Finance Seth Terkper didn’t immediately answer calls to his mobile phone or return a text message.

– Bloomberg