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Naira Strengthens to N310 a Dollar

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Dollar thrive in Nigeria

Foreign currency speculators, who launched an unprecedented attack against the naira in the last two weeks, got their fingers burnt on Tuesday when the nation’s currency staged a major recovery, rising to N310 a dollar at the close of business, compared to N375 at which it sold on Monday.

The naira fell to an all-time low of about N400 to a dollar on the parallel market last week fuelling concerns that it would plummet further to N450-N500/$ this week.

But findings showed that the naira defied expectations, climbing to as high as N305 to the dollar at some parallel market points in Lagos on Tuesday afternoon, before settling at N310.

Forex dealers and currency analysts attributed the significant gain on the parallel market to excess supply of the greenback in the market, even as it looked like a lot of speculators lost the shirts on their back.

According to Thisday reliable source, speculators who thought that by attacking the currency last week, coupled with misplaced concerns that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was going to stop the allocation of forex for school fees and medical bills abroad, this would compel the central bank and President Muhammadu Buhari to alter their stance against the devaluation of the currency.

But they were disappointed when Buhari, in Egypt at the weekend, adamantly ruled out the devaluation of the naira on the grounds that Nigeria does not have the competitive advantage to benefit from an official currency adjustment.

Reacting to the president’s stance, speculators who had been betting that the naira would depreciate further, started dumping the dollars with reckless abandon, effectively creating excess supply of the greenback in the parallel market.

Commenting on the situation in the secondary forex market, the chairman, Association of Bureau de Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON), Alhaji Aminu Gwadabe, said: “The market is moving from perception to reality.”

Similarly, an analyst at Ecobank Nigeria, Mr. Kunle Ezun, predicted that the naira would edge higher in the coming days.

“We expect that the naira would appreciate further. We have always said that what happened last week was purely a speculative attack.

Some people felt that if they pushed the naira down to that level, they could force the CBN to devalue, so that when the naira is devalued and the gap widens further, they would now bring out the dollar cash to make a kill,” Ezun said.
He however urged the fiscal authorities to introduce policies that would help stimulate economic activities, saying that the fundamentals of the economy were still weak.

ABCON also aligned with the federal government’s decision not to further devalue the naira.
Gwadabe said this at a media briefing, pointing out that devaluing the naira would create more problems than it would solve.

He said that as a way of enhancing transparency in the BDC sub-sector, his association had decided to introduce a forex rate band weekly.

This rate band is expected to serve as a guide for all BDCs and the public on the prevailing exchange rate across the country, he added.
In addition, it will be operated in line with the regulated forex rate in the economy.

“This is to forestall exploitation of forex end users, and also to ensure that end users are informed to avoid falling victims of exploitation.

“The band will be announced via weekly press releases that will be circulated to the media for publication.

“ABCON will introduce a series of measures aimed at transforming the operations of BDCs in Nigeria to align with global best practices. These include: review and updating of BDC operational manual; introduction of live trading platforms; automation of all transactions and documentation requirements; and increased partnership with the CBN and other relevant agencies.

“Further, as part of its responsibility as a self regulatory organisation (SRO), and also in continuation of its aim to transform its members to compete within the global regulatory currency market, ABCON will seek the approval of relevant monetary and fiscal authorities as well as partnership for effective use of the nation’s external reserves to enhance domestic trade and foreign exchange management.

“To this end, our website and internet platforms will be developed to position BDCs to serve as agents of Western Union and currency auctioneers.

“We would also develop platforms that will allow our members to access sources of autonomous foreign exchange like govt agencies, embassies, IOCs and export proceeds, etc,” he explained.

He also urged the federal government to introduce policies that would diversify the economy to increase non-oil export earnings, and reduce imports.

This, according to him, would lead to increased foreign exchange inflow and a reduction in demand for foreign exchange.

In addition to policies that would diversify the economy, ABCON suggested that the CBN should review the policy of dollar importation into the economy for the purpose of defending the naira.

According to the association, the central bank should introduce a policy whereby the naira is used to intervene in the real sectors of the economy to boost productivity.

Furthermore, Gwadabe said as a way of reducing demand for dollars, the CBN should explore the option of promoting the use and acceptability of naira for transactions within the West African sub-region.

He added: “We observe that this is already happening at the level of informal trading activities within the sub-region, and it is our belief that this can be replicated at the level of formal economic activities.”

Meanwhile, the Chairman of Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, Mr. Atedo Peterside, has expressed concern over the uncertainty arising from the federal government’s foreign exchange policy, warning that it is threatening macroeconomic stability in the country and is unsustainable.

He stated this yesterday at the 2016 Standard Bank West Africa Investors’ Conference tagged, “Unlocking Nigeria’s Potential…Growth through Diversification”.

He said the federal government’s foreign exchange policy is the biggest uncertainty facing the country today following the lack of economic policy direction and the likely composition of Buhari’s economic team for much of the third and fourth quarters of last year.

According to him, “The argument at stake is not whether to devalue or not because there has already been an effective devaluation.

“The naira prices of various capital goods are now being ‘correctly’ priced purely on the basis of realistic expected replacement costs and so the economy is sliding towards an unpalatable scenario where the consumer suffers the ‘pains’ of devaluation (rising prices) without witnessing any of the expected ‘gains’ such as enhanced fiscal viability (in local currency terms at least) of the three tiers of government and increased competitiveness of Nigerian businesses.”

Peterside stressed that the much-craved economic diversification could only take place meaningfully if new capital investment activity takes place to take maximum advantage of increased domestic competitiveness.

“Sadly, most investors here – local and foreign – are currently caught up in a frenzied pursuit of the cheapest available dollars and the difference between losing this game and winning it can be as high as a mind-boggling 50 per cent on new transactions.

“The pursuit of scarce forex for today’s needs has understandably become the main game in town and this has exacerbated the pressures on Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves and the naira via the one-way bet that is currently on against the naira, that is, everybody wants to take foreign exchange out and nobody really wants to bring it in,” he added.

He further stated that the excitement caused by the important development in Nigeria’s political landscape last year, where a change in government occurred at the federal level after a keenly contested election, has given way to some apprehension surrounding whether a populist government can take the necessary tough economic policy actions that are necessary to restore confidence and stimulate badly needed new investment activity.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Banking Sector

Union Bank CEO, Godson Chukwuemeka Okonkwo Acquires 2.4 Million Shares in the Bank Ahead of Acquisition

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Union bank - Investors King

The Chief Executive Officer, Union Bank Plc, Godson Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, has purchased 2,431,917 ordinary shares of the bank, according to the latest disclosure filing from the lender.

The CEO acquired the 2,431,917 shares of Union Bank at N4.90 per share on Thursday 6th May 2021 from the floor of the Nigerian Exchange Ltd.

Okonkwo’s N11.916 million investment was after Investors King reported a possible acquisition of the bank by Zenith Bank or Access Bank following sources cited by Bloomberg.

Bloomberg said, “Atlas Mara Limited, the London Stock Exchange-listed pan-African banking group started by Mr. Bob Diamond has received a number of approaches for its 49.97 per cent holding in Lagos-based Union Bank of Nigeria.”

It also stated that Atlas Mara received interests from Nigerian and Middle Eastern lenders for its remaining assets on the continent, according to Bloomberg sources.

The sources claimed the banks in talks with Atlas Mara asked not to be identified as talks are private. But they mentioned Nigeria’s Zenith Bank Plc, Access Bank Plc and Morocco’s Attijariwafa Bank as some of the banks that have so far expressed interests in acquiring Union Bank.

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Banking Sector

Zenith Bank, Access Bank, Others Express Interest in Acquiring Union Bank

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Atlas Mara - Investors King

Zenith Bank and Access Bank are some of the financial institutions in talks to acquire Atlas Mara Ltd.’s 49.97 percent stake in Union Bank Plc.

Bloomberg said, “Atlas Mara Limited, the London Stock Exchange-listed pan-African banking group started by Mr. Bob Diamond has received a number of approaches for its 49.97 per cent holding in Lagos-based Union Bank of Nigeria.”

It also stated that Atlas Mara received interests from Nigerian and Middle Eastern lenders for its remaining assets on the continent, according to Bloomberg sources.

The sources claimed the banks in talks with Atlas Mara asked not to be identified as talks are private. But they mentioned Nigeria’s Zenith Bank Plc, Access Bank Plc and Morocco’s Attijariwafa Bank as some of the banks that have so far expressed interests in acquiring Union Bank.

Middle Eastern banks and private equity suitors have also shown interest, according to the people. Some potential buyers have indicated they may acquire all of Atlas Mara’s remaining assets in Africa, which would include its Zimbabwe unit, the people said.

Atlas Mara has been working with Rothschild & Co. to consider options for its Union Bank stake. No final decisions have been made, and there’s no certainty the deliberations will lead to a transaction, the people said.

Representatives for Atlas Mara and Zenith Bank didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Attijariwafa Bank Managing Director Ismail Douiri and a representative for Access Bank declined to comment.

Speaking on the matter, Frontier and Sub-saharan Africa Banks’ Analyst, Renaissance Capital, Adesoji Solanke, on Thursday said this is good for Atlas Mara.

He said “Good for Atlas Mara if they’re able to exit successfully, as they’ve been selling a bunch of assets over the past year, to KCB and Access Bank respectively across different markets. Whether they get a good valuation for Union Bank is another thing.

“We don’t think it’ll be a transformational deal for Access or Zenith (Return-on-Equity dilutive for both), but could be a good way for the Middle Eastern banks to get a decent foothold in the market. We suspect getting the other private equity investor block to sell will be critical as we wouldn’t expect a strategic bank investor to desire a minority shareholding.”

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Finance

Nestle Nigeria Reports N12.4 Billion Profit After Tax in Q1 2021

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Nestle Nigeria - Investors King

Nestle Nigeria Plc, a food and beverage specialty company headquartered in Lagos and majorly owned by Nestle S.A of Switzerland, grew revenue to N87.258 billion in the first quarter (Q1) of 2021 from N70.329 billion filed in Q1 2020.

The company disclosed in its unaudited financial statement released in late April.

Gross profit stood at N34.743 billion in the quarter, up from N31.658 billion achieved in the same quarter of 2020.

Results from operating activities rose from N17.538 billion in Q1 2020 to N20.314 billion in Q1 2021.

While finance income contracted from N335.242 million in Q1 2020 to N123.340 million in Q1 2021. Finance costs rose to N1.435 billion in the quarter, up from N417.928 million recorded in Q1 2020.

Net finance income/cost stood at N1.312 billion, up from N82.686 million in Q1 2020.

Profit before tax rose to N19.002 billion in the quarter under review, better than the N17.455 billion achieved in the corresponding quarter of 2020.

Nestle Nigeria paid N6.602 billion as income tax for the period, slightly higher than the N6.259 billion paid in Q1 2020.

Profit after tax expanded to N12.400 billion in the quarter, up from N11.195 billion filed in Q1 2020.

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