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Nigerian Banks and Entrepreneurs

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Olaseni Durojaiye in this report examines the relationship between banks and private businesses in Nigeria, regretting that the way some banks go about their businesses may dampen entrepreneurship spirit and stifle the economy.

The world over, entrepreneurs occupy a central position in any market economy. They serve as the spark plug in the economy’s engine, activating and stimulating a greater percentage of economic activities. The economic success of nations worldwide is the result of encouraging and rewarding the entrepreneurial instinct. A society is prosperous only to the degree to which it rewards and encourages entrepreneurial activities because the entrepreneurs and their activities (form the two legs of the tripod that are the critical determinant of the level of success, prosperity, growth and opportunities in any economy. The critical third being inter-related issue of regulations and compliance

This explains why an analyst posited that “The most dynamic societies in the world are the ones that have the most entrepreneurs, plus the economic and legal structure to encourage and motivate entrepreneurs to greater activities.”

Managers of great economies go to great length to promote entrepreneurship because they recognize that the story of competiveness of their business environment is best told by using the same entrepreneurs to tell the story.

Between Banks and the Economy

Economists argued that banks and financial institutions on the other hand contribute to economic development and the improvement in living standards by providing various services to the rest of the economy. Some of these services are offered through clearing and settlement systems to facilitate trade, channeling financial resources between savers and borrowers, and various products to deal with risk and uncertainty.(The role of the banks as financial intermediaries has a major bearing on how efficiently the economy allocates its resources between competing uses.

According to a Research Analyst with Frigate Consult, a Lagos based financial advisory firm, Soji Ibiwoye, “commercial bank is basically a collection of investment capital in search of a good return by granting loans and extending credit to people who can pay it back on the bank’s terms.

This is why banks specialise in assessing the credit worthiness of borrowers and providing an ongoing monitoring function to ensure borrowers meet their obligations. They are rewarded for these services by the spread between the rates they offer to the accumulated pool of savers, and the rates they offer to potential borrowers. This process is at the heart of modern banking,” Ibiwoye explained. He however added that “Whether the structure of Nigeria’s financial system is optimal for the economic growth outcomes the country would like to achieve is another topic entirely.”

It is somewhat difficult to measure the impact of banks financing in providing support for entrepreneurs in Nigeria.

However, there have been some success stories and leading lights that signpost Nigeria’s entrepreneurial spirit. Aliko Dangote owns the Dangote group, a conglomerate with interests that cover food processing, cement manufacturing and freight. The company operates in Nigeria and other African countries, including Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Togo, Tanzania, and Zambia. The Dangote Group employs over 11,000 people.

Astute and highly successful investor and entrepreneur, Otudeko’s Honeywell Group invests in diverse sectors of the economy since its inception in 1972 and has grown to become one of Nigeria’s leading indigenous conglomerates.

The Honeywell Group is now a major diversified group engaged in select businesses in key sectors of the Nigerian economy, namely; foods and agro-allied, energy (oil, gas and power), infrastructure, services and real estate, and through other portfolio investments the group is also a significant provider of capital to other sectors of Nigeria’s economy. Honeywell Group employs over 10,000 people.

In the services sectors, Jim Ovia and Tony Elumelu stand out. Ovia is the promoter and founder of Visafone and was a co-Founder of Zenith Bank Plc while Tony Elumelu is the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa amongst other interests.

Check also revealed that these entrepreneurs through their businesses have at certain times enjoyed and continue to enjoy the support of the Nigerian banking and financial system through loans and credits with which the businesses are funded for growth and expansion. It is fair therefore to conclude that the Nigerian economy is fueled by entrepreneurship and funded by the banks.

Ibiwoye insisted that these two must work hand in hand and argued that no one can exist without the other adding that the relationship banks have with their customers and businesses must therefore be maintained with a degree of professionalism as expected from a well-regulated sector.

Between Banks and Entrepreneurs

Due to the numerous risks that are inherent in commercial/contractual transactions, disputes are often times inevitable.

The banker – customer relationship being contractual in nature is not exempted. With the pivotal role of banks in the growth of entrepreneurship in Nigeria, analysts argue that it is essential that there is a strict adherence to professional and ethical standards within the industry and also a framework for the resolution of disputes arising from a departure from established standards and practices.

One of the initiatives set up to address customer complaints and disputes arising from banking practices was the establishment of a sub-committee on “ethics and professionalism” by the Bankers’ Committee. The Bankers’ Committee is an umbrella body comprising the Central Bank of Nigeria and commercial banks.

Whilst the Sub-committee on Ethics and Professionalism has resolved over 1000 cases or petitions since it was established in December 2000, the Sub-committee’s ability to ensure compliance by the banks with its decisions remains a critical issue. This has led some of the often asked questions among industry insiders: Can entrepreneurs rely on the Sub-committee to ensure that all banks adhere to the code of ethics and professionalism? Can the decision of the Sub-Committee compel a bank to honour its commitments/responsibilities to a customer?

The ongoing situation between Honeywell and Ecobank highlights these issues and the impact they can have on the growth of entrepreneurship and the economy. “This may turn out to be a litmus test for the bankers’ Committee,” stated a branch manager with one of the third generation banks. “How the saga plays out will mark a watershed in entrepreneur and bank relationship in the country,” added the banker who wished not to be identified.

Between Honeywell and Ecobank

According to media reports based on facts from ongoing court proceedings as instituted by both parties, Honeywell Group through three of its companies (Anchorage Leisure’s Limited, Siloam Global Services and Honeywell Flour Mills) obtained various banking facilities from Oceanic Bank. These facilities were subsequently inherited by Ecobank Nigeria Limited upon its acquisition of Oceanic Bank.

Due to various factors and within established norms of banker/customer relationships, Honeywell Group, in 2012, reportedly commenced discussions with Ecobank for a full and final settlement of its obligations to the bank. At a meeting in July 2013 between the two organisations which was led by the Chairman of Honeywell Group on one hand and the MD/CEO of Ecobank on the other hand, an agreement was reached for the payment of N3.5 billion in full and final settlement of Honeywell’s indebtedness to Ecobank.

Reports further indicated that an initial and immediate good faith payment of N500 million was made and a balance of N3 billion paid subsequently, making a total of N3.5billion paid in accordance with the agreements reached.

Ecobank reportedly duly acknowledged the cumulative payment of N3.5 billion in a letter dated February 2014 and agreed to update its records with the credit registry. However, nine months after payment was effected, Ecobank informed Honeywell that its representatives at the meeting did not obtain board approval before entering into the agreement.

Honeywell reportedly kicked against the feedback from the bank arguing an agreement entered into with the bank’s managing director who ordinarily should be able to bind the bank on agreements of such nature and further documented in numerous correspondence.

Knowledgeable insiders disclosed that this thus became a basis of dispute between Honeywell Group and Ecobank as it was clear to Honeywell that it had fulfilled its obligations to Ecobank based on agreements reached.

The dispute was submitted to the Bankers Committee, Sub-Committee on Ethics and Professionalism and a ruling was issued by the committee in July, 2015 to the effect that “the agreement between Honeywell Group and Ecobank to pay N3.5 billion as full and final payment of the borrowers’ indebtedness is valid and should be complied with”.

Ecobank till date has not adhered to this ruling. Both parties have filed suits at the Federal High Court with respect to the matter.

When contacted, the Head, Legal and Regulatory affairs of Honeywell Group, Yemisi Busari, said “We are surprised by the actions of Ecobank, which have been very inconsistent and short of the standards expected of a bank of its standing. In our opinion, there was a valid agreement to pay a sum in full and final settlement of our obligations and we have met our part.

“Independent third parties have also attested to this fact. Are Managing Directors of banks no longer recognised agents, able to commit their organizations to agreements? Why did it take the bank nine months to realize they didn’t have board approval for their Managing Director’s actions? Does Ecobank, which subjected itself to the hearing by the Bankers Committee, Sub-Committee on Ethics and Professionalism, not believe it is accountable to the Bankers Committee, because the ruling was not in their favour? What is the objective of the bank in making multiple filings before different judges in the same Federal High Court? she asked.

Many banking industry insiders whose comments were sought, though familiar with facts of the matter asked not to be quoted. However, they opined that the dispute will raise serious concerns in the minds of most entrepreneurs in Nigeria as funding from banks is critical to the running of most businesses.

As one of them asked rhetorically “Will the banks respect the sanctity of agreements reached with their customers going forward? What recourse is available to entrepreneurs when banking standards and decisions are not adhered to? How is compliance to standards and codes enforced in the banking industry? Without a resolution of the issues highlighted above, entrepreneurship will gradually become stifled and the impact on the budding Nigerian economy may be colossal,” he concluded.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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FG Starts Registration, Categorization For Nigerian Fish Farmers

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The Federal Government of Nigeria, in its bid to solve the food crisis in the country, has kick-started the registration and categorization of all fish farms across the country. This move is also aimed at fighting the country’s economic challenges and encouraging export, inspection, data collection and record-keeping.

Investors King gathered that the Federal Department of Fisheries & Aquaculture, alongside states of the federation will commence the operation in the coming weeks. 

This development was disclosed at the end of a capacity-building training for fisheries officers and stakeholders involved in fish farming, processing and export recently.

During the training which was organized by the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC), participants urged the Federal Department of Fishery to hasten the completion and perfection of the Aquaculture Residue Monitoring Plan for approval, in order to enable the export of farmed fish into the European Union and other countries.

In the same vein, the Norwegian Customs has said that Nigerians can now export fish to Norway without duties. However, the products must be of standard quality. 

“Exporters of Nigerian farmed fishes can only enjoy the zero duty rate the moment the ban on such fishes is lifted by the European Union”, the Customs said. 

Meanwhile, the Central Bank Nigeria (CBN) has expressed concerns over the absence of off-takers for fishery farmers in Nigeria. The bank said the situation is affecting the Bank’s ability to intervene in the aquaculture Anchor Borrowers’ initiative.

At the training, an official of the Development Finance Department, CBN, Mr. Samson Alatise said that the CBN is set to support the growth of the fishery sector in Nigeria “if there are the willing anchors that will take up the farmed fishes from the farmers.”

Alatise stated that there is a committee set up by the federal government to checkmate the activities of the sector in the absence of an undertaker. He also said that the “development is limiting the Bank’s participation in funding the aquaculture of ‘Cat’ and ‘Tilapia’ fishes. 

‘‘We are keen on funding aquaculture; the issue is that there is no viable anchor and this has limited the CBN’s participation in terms of growing the fishery sector.

“The CBN wants to see how it can be assisted to overcome the issue of non-availability of anchor,” Alatise added. 

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Walmart, Amazon, Apple, Others Top 2022 Fortune 500 List

Walmart took the top spot for the tenth year in a row, generating $5.1 trillion cumulative revenue over that time

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Fortune Magazine has released the 68th edition of their annual list of the top 500 US companies with Walmart, Amazon, and Apple topping the list.

Fortune 500 list is an annual list of the top 500 largest companies in the United States, ranked based on the total revenue each of the companies generated in their respective fiscal years. It is compiled by Fortune Magazine.

A check by Investors King shows 2022 top 500 largest companies in the United States earned a combined $16.1 trillion in revenue and realised $1.8 trillion in profits. Indicating that the 2021 revenue grew by $6.4 billion, or 19% when compared to 2021 numbers.

Breaking down this year’s list, Walmart took the top spot for the tenth year in a row, generating $5.1 trillion cumulative revenue over that time.  Amazon.com came second with a 22% increase in revenue in 2021 to cross the $450 billion threshold.

Apple, perhaps the most profitable company on the list for the eighth time in eight years, generated profits of $95 billion to sit in the number three position.

CVS Health and CEO Karen Lynch strive to produce Fortune 500 history as the highest-ranking firm ever led by a female CEO, at number 4.

UnitedHealth Group maintained its position as USA’s largest health insurance provider, with considerable growth in 2021. The corporation served 2.2 million more individuals this year than the previous year, and revenue increased by 12% to $287 billion, making it claim the 5th spot.

Exxon Mobil has risen from 10th to 6th place on the Fortune 500 after a difficult, pandemic-affected 2020. After COVID-related limitations drove energy consumption and oil and gas prices to plunge, Exxon Mobil trimmed costs to shore up its balance sheet, laying off 9,000 employees. These measures, combined with a resurgence in oil prices, let the business earn more than $23 billion in 2021, its highest annual profit in seven years.

Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway generated the second-largest profits among Fortune 500 firms last year, with $90 billion in net income. Its stock also soared, returning 23.2 percent in 2021, putting it in the 7th position.

Alphabet had a spectacular record, reaching $200 billion in sales for the first time. Alphabet was the best-performing Big Tech stock in 2021, with shares up nearly three times the Nasdaq’s 22 percent gain. It also put aside $50 billion for share repurchases and announced a 20-to-1 stock split to stimulate more investment. With steady growth in revenue and profit from 2006, Alphabet took the 8th spot.

Mckesson, one of the largest drug distributors in the country ranked 9th with a clear revenue of $238,228 million in the 2021 fiscal year despite a $4.5 billion loss.

Despite a fall in this year’s ranking, AmerisourceBergen increased its revenue by 12.7%, to $214 billion for the 2021 fiscal year. The company ranked 10th, following its counterpart, Mckesson.

2022 Top 10 Fortune 500 List

  • Walmart
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • CVS Health
  • United Health Group
  • Exxon Mobil
  • Berkshire Hathaway
  • Alphabet
  • Mckesson
  • AmerisourceBergen

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Kaduna Airport Finally Resumes Operation, Azman Air Becomes First Airline to Reopen 

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Kaduna International Airport

After it suspended all flight operations for almost two months, the Kaduna Airport has finally resumed its flight operations, starting with Azman Air. 

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) announced that the Kaduna airport has commenced full flight operations after it was shut down due to an attack by gunmen. 

The acting General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Faithful Hope-Ivbaze, confirmed to newsmen on Monday that “Flight operations to Kaduna airport have commenced today with Azman Air.”

Investors King gathered that Azman Air, via its official Twitter account, announced the resumption of flights to the Kaduna airport, making it the first airline to resume operations.

The tweet reads: “Azman Air landed at Kaduna Airport today 23rd May 2022, to the elation and cheers of passengers, stakeholders, and staff. 

“Azman Air is the first Airline to resume operations in the Kaduna Airport after it has been closed for almost two months. 

“It was a defining moment for the aviation community as the airport is reopened after being closed for two months. It’s so exciting to be back!”

The airport manager, Aminat Salami, said: “As you can see, I have all my management staff here. We have been closed from the 26th of March, close to two months and I’m very sure and you can see we are all excited and happy and I’m praying that Azman will continue their operations successfully and they should not be discouraged by the first flight because people are not really aware”. 

“We will try to do more of the video advert so that the passengers would improve as time goes on,” she added. 

Recall that in March, it was reported that gunmen attacked the airport and killed a security guard while the Kaduna-Abuja train was also attacked on the same day. 

The airline had stopped its flight operations into Kaduna following the attack at the airport eight weeks ago. 

The attack was however repelled by the airport security operatives.

 

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