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Fitch Upgrades UBA to ‘B+,’ Stable Outlook

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  • Fitch Upgrades UBA to ‘B+,’ Stable Outlook

Fitch ratings has upgraded United Bank for Africa Plc Long Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to ‘B+’, with stable outlook.

The global rating agency also upgraded the Viability Rating of the pan-African bank to “b+” from “b”.

The rating upgrade came on the back of consistent improvement in financial performance metrics, funding and liquidity.

According to Fitch, UBA’s IDRs are driven by its intrinsic creditworthiness, as defined by its viability rating (VR). Like all Nigerian banks, UBA’s VR is constrained by the operating environment in Nigeria (B+/Stable) where the fragile economic recovery restrains banks’ growth prospects and asset quality.

The VR reflects UBA’s position as one of Nigeria’s largest banks, as well as its sound financial metrics and reasonable capital buffers.

It controls an overall market share in Nigeria of approximately 10 per cent and its well-established franchise is a rating strength.

UBA is also Nigeria’s most international bank, operating in 20 other sub-Saharan African
countries.

Its objective is to operate as a pan-African commercial bank.

“Our assessment is that geographic diversification is credit positive because it provides growth opportunities and can reduce exposure to Nigeria’s cyclical economic growth trends,” Fitch explained.

Further discussing the diversification of UBA, the rating agency noted that the bank’s international subsidiaries contributed 40 per cent of the Group’s earnings in first half of 2018, even as Nigerian assets dominate the group, representing around 70 per cent of consolidated assets.

In assessing the Group’s funding and liquidity profile, Fitch noted that “UBA’s local currency funding profile is a rating strength. Its loans/deposits ratio (57% at end-1H18) is low compared with peers (69%).

“The deposit base is well diversified by single customer and retail deposits represent approximately one-third of customer deposits, which is higher than the average for rated peers.

“UBA’s digital offerings continue to attract deposit inflows. Local currency liquidity ratios are comfortable and the issue of a USD500 million senior medium term bond on the international capital markets in June 2017 eased pressure on the group’s overall foreign currency liquidity position.”

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

FG Borrowed $5.9B To Fight COVID-19 and Implement Budget – Minister of Finance

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Zainab Ahmed

The federal government borrowed about $5.9 billion in 2020, to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and implement its budget. The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, revealed this yesterday.

A statement issued by her Special Adviser, Media and Communications, Mr. Yunusa Abdullahi, yesterday, indicated that the minister told the Collaborative Africa Budget Reform Initiative (CABRI) General Assembly during a webinar, that the federal government had to move quickly to save the economy.

Speaking on Nigeria’s fiscal response – short term interventions and impact on public finances, as an immediate fiscal response, Mrs. Ahmed said: “We did the following: Procured a $3.4 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and about $2.5 billion in local currency from the domestic capital market to support the 2020 budget implementation), among others.”

She noted that the government then packaged a N500 billion for COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund in the 2020 revised budget, as part of a N2.3 trillion Economic Sustainability Plan.

Mrs. Ahmed said that the government had begun the process of moving the economy away from its primary dependence on oil for revenues and foreign exchange, and making steady gains in addressing infrastructure and human capital challenges before the pandemic hit the global economy.

With COVID-19, Nigeria’s Bonny Light crude oil price fell from a peak of US$72.2 per barrel on January 7, 2020 to below US$20 by April 2020.

She said, “In effect, the US$57 crude oil price benchmark approved in the 2020 budget became unrealistic triggering the need to adjust the following variables: reduction of crude oil benchmark price from US$57 per barrel to US$28 per barrel; reduction of daily crude oil production benchmark from 2.18 million barrels per day (mbpd) to 1.9 mbpd; adjustment of the official exchange rate to N360/US$1 from N305/$.”

Mrs. Ahmed revealed that part of the federal government Supplementary Budget on COVID-19 would be spent on the procurement of 29. 588 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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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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