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CBN Fines Four Banks N5.8bn, Orders Lenders, MTN to Refund $8.1bn

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  • CBN Fines Four Banks N5.8bn, Orders Lenders, MTN to Refund $8.1bn

The Central Bank of Nigeria has imposed heavy fines totalling N5.87bn on four banks under its regulatory purview for alleged illegal funds repatriation.

It also directed the managements of the banks and MTN Nigeria Communications Limited to immediately refund to the apex bank $8,134,312,397.63, which was said to have been illegally repatriated by the company.

A statement from the CBN on Wednesday said it asked the banks and MTN to refund money for what it described as ‘flagrant violation of extant laws and regulations of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1995 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Foreign Exchange Manual, 2006’.

The four banks that came under the sledge hammer of the CBN for the violations are Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic-IBTC, Citibank and Diamond Bank.

The Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Isaac Okorafor, said that the actions of the bank became necessary following allegations of remittance of foreign exchange with irregular Certificates of Capital Importation issued on behalf of some offshore investors of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited and subsequent investigations carried out by the apex bank in March 2018.

“The CBN has therefore asked the managements of the banks and MTN Nigeria Communications Limited to immediately refund the sum of $8,134,312,397.63, illegally repatriated by the company to the coffers of the Central Bank of Nigeria,” it stated.

Figures obtained from the CBN on Wednesday indicated that the highest fine of N2.47bn was slammed on Standard Chartered Bank, while Stanbic IBTC Nigeria was fined N1.885bn.

Citibank Nigeria was penalised to the tune of N1.265bn, just as Diamond Bank was directed to pay N250m for violating extant rules.

The CBN spokesman further disclosed that the decision of the bank followed its thorough investigations into the allegations.

Okorafor said the investigations revealed that the sum of $3.448bn was repatriated by Standard Chartered Bank on the basis of the illegally issued CCIs.

Similarly, he added that the sums of $2.632bn, $1.766bn and $348.914m were repatriated by Stanbic IBTC Nigeria, Citibank Nigeria and Diamond Bank Plc, respectively between 2007 and 2015.

He said the CBN had directed the affected banks to immediately refund the respective sums to the CBN.

“The CBN’s investigation further revealed that on account of illegal conversion of MTN shareholders’ loan to preference shares (interest free loan) of $399,594,146.00, the sum of $8,134,312,397.63 was illegally repatriated by the company,” the statement said.

He said that the investigations by the CBN took a while in order to carry out thorough inquiry and give a fair hearing to all parties involved.

Okorafor advised all banks and multinational companies in Nigeria to adhere strictly to the provisions of all extant laws and regulations of Nigeria in their foreign exchange transactions.

He warned that failure by the management of banks and companies to abide by the existing guidelines would be appropriately sanctioned, adding that the sanctions would include denial of access to the Nigerian foreign exchange market.

Several calls made by one of our correspondents to spokespersons for the affected banks and MTN were not responded to as of 9.30pm on Wednesday.

CBN’s letter to Standard Chartered Bank states, “Our investigation also revealed the following, among others: i. The shareholders of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited invested the sum of $402,590,261.03 in the company from 2001 to 2006;

ii. The investment was carried out through the inflow of foreign currency cash transfers and equipment importation, which was evidenced by the CCIs issued by your bank, Citi Bank (CB) and Diamond Bank (DB) at the initial stage of the investment.

iii. The CCIs issued at the time of investment by your bank along with the other banks in respect of the $402,590,261.03 showed that $59,436,923.44 was recorded/invested as shareholders’ loan and $343,153,339.56 as equity. This position was, however, contrary to the position in the financial statements of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited for the year ended December 31, 2007, which revealed that $399,594,146.00 was invested as shareholders’ loan and $2,996,117.00 as equity investment, in accordance with the shareholder’s agreement but contrary to the CCIs issued by your bank, Citi Bank (CB) and Diamond Bank (DB). Your action in this regard constituted a rendition of false returns to the Central Bank of Nigeria.”

CBN’s letter to Stanbic-IBTC states, “Our investigation also revealed the following, among others:

i, The shareholders of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited invested the sum of $402,590,261.03 in the company from 2001 to 2006;

ii. The investment was carried out through the inflow of foreign currency cash transfers and equipment importation, which was evidenced by the CCIs issued by Standard Chartered Bank, Diamond Bank and Citibank, out of which eight of the CCIs totalling $377,216,508.30 were transferred to your bank by Standard Chartered Bank. Consequently, your bank repatriated the sum of $929,051,331.83 as proceeds of divestment from the CCIs valued at $42,704,408.61.

iii. On account of the illegal conversion of the shareholders loan to preference shares (interest free loan) of $399,594,146.00, the sum of $8,134,312,397.63 was illegally repatriated by your bank and the other banks on behalf of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited between 2007 and 2015.”

CBN’s letter to CitiBank says, “Our investigation also revealed the following, among others:

i. The shareholders of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited invested the sum of $402,590,261.03 in the company from 2001 to 2006;

ii. The investment was carried out through the inflow of foreign currency cash transfer and equipment importation evidenced by the CCIs issued by your bank, Standard Chartered Bank and Diamond Bank;

iii. The CCIs issued by your bank along with the other banks in respect of the $402,590,261.03 showed that $59,436,923.44 was recorded/invested as shareholders’ loan and $343,153,339.56 as equity at the time of the investment. This position was, however, contrary to the position in the financial statements of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited for the year ended December 31, 2007, which showed that $399,594,146.00 was invested as shareholders’ loan and $2,996,117.00 as equity investment, in accordance with the shareholder’s agreement but contrary to the CCIs issued by your bank, Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) and Diamond Bank (DB). Your action in this regard constituted a rendition of false returns to the Central Bank of Nigeria…

“Your bank failed to comply with extant regulations on the issuance of letter of indemnity to the CBN in addition to forwarding the transaction history of the CCIs to the CBN, as provided in Memorandum 24(5)(ii)(b) of the Foreign Exchange Manual in respect of the CCIs received by your bank from Standard Chartered Bank.”

CBN’s letter to Diamond Bank says, “Our investigation also revealed the following, among others:

i. The shareholders of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited invested the sum of $402,590,261.03 in the company from 2011 to 2006;

ii. The investment was carried out through the inflow of foreign currency cash transfer and equipment importation, which was evidenced by the CCIs issued by your bank, Citi Bank and Standard Chartered Bank;

III. The CCIs issued illegally by your bank along with the other banks in respect of the $402,590,261.03 showed that $59,436,923.44 was recorded/invested as shareholders’ loan and $343,153,339.56 as equity. This position was, however, contrary to the position in the financial statements of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited for the year ended December 31, 2007, which showed that $399,594,146.00 was invested as shareholders’ loan and $2,996,117.00 as equity investment, in accordance with the shareholder’s agreement but contrary to the CCIs issued by your bank, Citi Bank (CB) and Standard Chartered Bank (SCB). Your action in this regard constituted a rendition of false returns to the Central Bank of Nigeria.”

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.

Finance

Nasdaq Set To Launch Options Trading For Coinbase Global

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Less than a week after the largest crypto exchange in the U.S. Coinbase was listed, Nasdaq is set to start trading options for Coinbase Global.

According to Reuters, a representative for Coinbase stated that the COIN.O options will start trading on Nasdaq on Tuesday, April 20.

The launch of equity options will offer a new way for investors to bet on the fortunes of Coinbase. Equity options represent the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell a stock at a certain price, known as the strike price, on or before an expiration date.

The news follows Coinbase’s direct listing, which saw the firm’s stock fluctuate between a valuation of $429.54 and $310 on its first day of trading.

It was reported that the Chief Executive Officer of Coinbase, Brian Armstrong sold less than 2% of his holdings which worth about $292 million in shares on COIN’s first day of trading. According to filings made with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Armstrong sold 749,999 shares in three batches at prices ranging from $381 to $410.40 per share for total proceeds of $291.8 million.

It was also reported that insiders dumped nearly $5 billion in COIN stock shortly after it was listed. Filings on the Coinbase Investor Relations website showed a total of 12,965,079 shares were sold by insiders, worth over $4.6 billion at COIN’s $344 share price at close on Friday.

Yahoo Finance reported the stock has slumped 22.5% from a high of $429.54 on April 14 to a current after-hours trading price of $332.75 where it appears to have settled after Monday’s trading session.

On April 20, Coinbase Pro announced that will add support for new trading pairs for Basic Attention Token (BAT), Cardano (ADA), Decentraland (MANA), and USDC from April 20. The four assets will be paired with three fiat currencies (USD, EUR, GBP), BTC, and ETH, with limited trading functionality to be made available while market liquidity is assessed at launch.

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Banking Sector

Unity Bank Grows Asset by 67.90% to N492.02 Billion, As Gross Earnings Hit N42.71 Billion in FY 2020

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Unity Bank Plc grew its assets base to N492.02billion representing a significant increase of 67.90% from the N293.05 billion of total assets value recorded in 2019. This is even as the agric-focused lender declared gross earnings of N42.71 billion within the period under review.

A review of the Bank’s audited results for full-year ended 31 December 2020, released to the Nigerian Stock Exchange, showed that the Bank improved its bottom line marginally as Profit After Tax, PAT stood at N2.09 billion. Profit Before Tax, PBT closed at N2.22 billion, in a year that was defined by the unmitigated impact of global pandemic characterized by disruptions in business activities and the general downturn that resulted in revenue/returns dip in major leading sectors globally.

The lender substantially grew its customers’ deposit portfolio to N356.62 billion, up from N257.69 billion in the corresponding period of 2019, representing a 38.4% growth. This affirms positive market uptake of the Bank’s product offerings, as well as the lender’s growing customer base to its recent aggressive push with agile customer-centric products, which has played a role in deepening financial services penetration, especially to a wider world, an underserved spectrum of the retail market.

Other major highlight of the audited financial statement relates to growth in its net operating income which rose to N25.46 billion from N23.21 billion in the corresponding period of 2019, representing a 9.71% increase. This is even as the net interest income recorded a significant jump, as it rose by 7.60% to N17.75 billion from N16.49 billion in the corresponding period of 2019. Earnings per Share closed at 17.85 Kobo.

The Bank’s gross loans portfolio increased by 92.9% to N206.2 billion in December 2020 from N106.9 billion in December 2019. The Bank’s lending strategy was specially tailored to support the nation’s food agenda. This had the added advantage of improving food security across the country, providing employment to thousands of youths and entrepreneurs, contributing to the conservation of FX stocks and mitigating security challenges by ensuring adequate empowerment of citizens and deepening skills acquisition across the value chain.

Commenting on the result, Unity Bank’s Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mrs. Tomi Somefun stated that the results showed the resilience of the Bank during unprecedented times of uncertainties and our ability to innovate and focus on key balance sheet items that will enable us to maintain the growth trajectory.

She further opined that: “Consequently, for the year under review, the opportunities to significantly create more quality assets for the business, thought to have a sustainable impact, informed part of choices made and we have seen some encouraging market uptake in this regard, apart from the benefits to the enterprise bottom-line that have also started trickling in. Other key performance indicators especially on the liability side of the business were equally not left out. The Bank deployed new product features and augmentation supported by omni-channel, USSD promotions and other channels to enhance services delivery efficiency, drive income generation capacities and enhance steady balance sheet growth for the year”.

Looking ahead, Somefun stated: “we will latch on targeted strategies to deploy significant investment in technology in order to ride the waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the back of this, the Bank focuses on achieving major efficiency gains, deepening its retail footprints and penetrating identified cluster market segments, as bulwarks to tapping into various youth markets platforms, in addition to the mass market would get a further boost”.

While laying an outlook for the future, the Unity Bank’s Chief further stated: “The Bank is also looking to consolidate on the gains from its core business areas and niche in the agribusiness sector. The Bank has solidly financed over one million farmers over the past three years. These farmers cut across several primary crop production such as rice, maize, cotton, wheat, sorghum, etc coupled with their rich value chains, and we hope to continue to expand on this as we play our part in driving the country’s quest for self-sufficiency in food production.”

Analysts are of the view that has made an appreciable impact in the agribusiness and its value chains consistently, the market is excited that the current year performance and different initiatives of the Bank show that the agribusiness is bankable not only as a differential positioning but also for sustainable business performance and profitability.

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Banking Sector

Access Bank To Acquire BancABC Botswana

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Access Bank Plc on Monday disclosed that it had entered into a definitive and binding agreement with ABC Holdings Limited to acquire 78.15 per cent shareholding in African Banking Corporation of Botswana Limited (BancABC Botswana).

The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approvals and customary conditions precedent, is expected to close before the end of this quarter.

ABC Holdings is a subsidiary of London Stock Exchange listed group – Atlas Mara Limited.

Access Bank disclosed this in a statement signed by its Company Secretary, Sunday Ekwochi.

Bostwana is renowned for its quality sovereign credit rating and stability. Access Bank’s market entry is expected to further solidify its strategy as, “a strong banking partner in key verticals across retail and corporate banking, including especially supporting trade in payments across southern Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa more broadly.”

Commenting on the deal, the GMD/CEO, Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe, said: “We remain committed to a disciplined and thoughtful expansion strategy in Africa, which we believe will create strong, sustainable returns for our shareholders and stakeholders at large, over the medium and long-term.

“The establishment of Access Bank through this acquisition in the Republic of Botswana will position the bank to deliver a more complete set of banking solutions to its clients active in and across the SADC and COMESA regions.

“This transaction complements our recent strategic growth acquisitions in South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique. We are building a bank of the future that Africans across Africa and the world would be proud of and look forward to welcoming the employees, customers and other stakeholders of BancABC Bostawana to Access Bank.”

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