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Banking Sector

FirstBank Bounces Back to its Leadership Position, Delivers a Fantastic Performance in 2021

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As financial market analysts continue to digest the 2021 financial results of the FirstBank Limited, which they say reflect the return of the banking conglomerate to its leadership position, Festus Akanbi writes that the regime of strong fundamentals which the robust performance represents is in tandem with the ongoing restructuring being midwifed by the current board and management of the company.

The Nigerian investing community was held spellbound earlier in the week when FBN Holdings Plc released its much-awaited 2021 financial statements to the public, showing a stellar performance, especially in its banking subsidiary, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, which is said to be indicative of its strong recovery from its hitherto dwindling financial position.

Banking and capital market analysts, in their immediate reactions, said the impressive results signpost a regime of strong fundamentals after a period of restructuring by the leadership of its current management and board.

The Scorecard

To mitigate the effect of the low-interest rate on investment securities and revenue generation, the bank was said to have intensified deposit mobilisation and funding strategy to support enhanced loan growth at optimised rates leading to a 5.7% increase in interest expense to N140.8 billion as against N133.2 billion in December 2020.

During the period, non-interest revenue grew by 96.1% to N364.6 billion as against N185.9 billion in the preceding year on the back of increased fees and commission income, treasury activities, and other operating income.

According to a report by Nairametrics, in its bid to further enhance its revenue generation capacity, First Pension Custodian Limited, a subsidiary of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, entered into a definitive agreement with Access Bank Plc for the planned acquisition of the entire share capital of Access Pension Fund Custodian Limited held by Access Bank Plc. This, according to the management of the bank will further boost its market share in the industry, aid revenue diversification, and support annuity income.

The bank says it will continue to create quality loans with a focus on retail lending driven by technology as it continues to grow non-interest income to further diversify revenue.

To show for the relentless efforts of the board and management of the bank, deposits from customers increased by 19.5% y-o-y to N5.9 trillion (Dec 2020: N4.9 trillion) reaffirming the bank’s strong market access and robust funding base.

A statement from the bank said, “Our investment in agent banking, digitalisation, and deployment of digital platforms which our customers have adopted, improved customer penetration and deepened our solid retail franchise. This continues to provide us with access to stable funding, reducing our cost of fund ratio to 2.1% (Dec 2020: 2.3%) while supporting the float of our current and savings account at 91.2% (First Bank of Nigeria).”

In the same vein, total assets grew 16.2% y-o-y to N8.9trillion as against N7.7trillion in 2020, driven by a 30.0% y-o-y increase in customer loans and 26.3% increase y-o-y in investment securities. Cash and balances with Central Banks, loans to banks & customers, and investment securities constitute 87.2% of total assets (Dec 2020: 83.4%).

“With a cleaner balance sheet and resilient earnings-generating capacity, FirstBank (Nigeria) was able to accrete capital buffers from organic earnings. Hence, despite the increase in loans and advances, Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) remained steady, marginally increasing to 17.4% (Dec 2020: 17.0%),” the report said.

Meanwhile, the audited report for the group indicated an impressive double-digit growth in the top line and the bottom line. Gross earnings rose from N590.66 billion in 2020 to N757.30 billion in 2021. Profit before tax doubled by 99.1 per cent to N166.66 billion in 2021 as against N83.7 billion in 2020. Profit after tax grew by 68.4 per cent from N75.6 billion to N151.079 billion. Earnings per share thus increased from N2.45 in 2021 to N4.17 in 2021.

Its balance sheet also gives cause for joy to its stakeholders as its total assets rose from N7.69 trillion in 2020 to N8.93 trillion in 2021. Customers’ deposits grew to N5.85 trillion in 2021 as against N4.9 trillion in 2020. Loans and advances to customers also improved from N2.21 trillion to N2.88 trillion. With total liabilities rising from N6.92 trillion to N8.05 trillion, shareholders’ funds increased from N765.17 billion in 2020 to N879.86 billion in 2021.

A quick analysis of the performance shows a progressive trajectory that has portrayed First Bank as an organisation that has recovered from past episodic challenges that led to a change of baton at its board level.

Analysts are quick to point at the recent restructuring exercise in the organisation as the launchpad for the excellent balance sheet operations which translated into a 30.3 per cent rise in its gross earnings, while total assets and customer deposits rose by 15.9 per cent and 19.5 per cent respectively.

The audited report also confirmed Mr. Femi Otedola as the largest individual shareholder of the group, with total direct and indirect shareholdings of 7.57 per cent.

Fall in NPLs, Boost to Profitability

For a bank that was almost brought to its knees by the burden of non-performing loans, it came as a great relief to both the shareholders and the regulatory authorities that for the first time in a long while, First Bank’s NPLs came down to 6.1 per cent, significant progress for the bank when compared to other Tier 1 banks and the regulatory threshold of 5.0per cent.

Analysts also attributed the significant fall in the NPL rates from 40 in 2016 to 6.5 per cent in 2021, to a new culture of corporate governance currently in place in the group and which has successfully revamped the company’s risk management capabilities.

According to the bank, the recent turnaround and improvement in the non-performing loans have been a major boost in FirstBank’s quest to improve profitability and reinforce its leadership in the financial services industry in Nigeria.

Analysts said with the impressive results for its 2021 operations, the board and management of FBN have proven to the investing community that the company is ready to take its leadership role in the nation’s banking sector and that the years of locusts have been put behind the institution.

A Transition to Sustained Growth

In their view, First Bank, with these impressive results has demonstrated the fact that is transitioning into a sustained growth phase and delivering performance commensurate with the size of its business capabilities of its people.

And for the shareholders of the company, it was a harvest time with N12.56 billion set aside as divided, about 8.3 percent of the total net earnings recorded in 2021.

A capital market analyst, Mr. David Edobor explained that the major transformation in First Bank, as evident in its mouth-watering performance should be attributed to the doggedness and determination of the new leadership of the bank. His view was corroborated by a source from the company who explained that the performance was driven by a relentless focus on the needs of customers and improving the competitiveness of the bank’s offerings.

“We have sharpened our “Go to Market” approach to better leverage the opportunities which our large scale provides, in addition to becoming more relevant to our clients by improving our value propositions.”

Over the years, FirstBank has been able to grow customer accounts from about 10 million in 2015 to over 36 million (including digital wallets). It also became the second-largest issuer of cards in Africa with over 11.8million issued cards, onboard over 18.6 million active customers on First Bank digital banking platforms.

New Hands, New Culture of Excellence

Market watchers said although some of the impressive figures represented the performance of the bank before the coming of the current leadership, analysts said the good news coming from the organisation will greatly challenge the incumbent board and management to push the frontier of excellent performance in the company.

It would be recalled that the bank was able to stabilise after a leadership tussle at the board level. However, with the triumph of Adeduntan and his return to his post, the foremost bank has been recording stellar performances.

Part of the changes was the emergence of the chairman of Geregu Power Plc, Femi Otedola as the highest single shareholder of the company.

An elated Chief Executive Officer of First Bank, the banking arm of the holding company, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, described the success of the commercial banking business as the beginning of the transition into a sustained growth phase.

He said, “Following years of strategic restructuring of the Bank’s balance sheet and operations, the Commercial Banking business is beginning to transition into a sustained growth phase delivering performance commensurate to the size of our business and capabilities of our people. Profit before tax is up 77.9%, gross earnings 30.3%, total assets 15.9%, and customer deposits up 19.5%.”

This performance, according to him, was driven by a relentless focus on the needs of customers and improving the competitiveness of the bank’s offerings. “We have sharpened our ‘Go To Market’ approach to better leverage the opportunities which our large scale provides in addition to becoming more relevant to our clients by improving our value propositions.

“This performance is also in line with the Bank’s Quantum Profitability Leap agenda which seeks to ensure that we fully maximise the revenue-generating capacity of our business to boost the bottom line and fulfil the expectations of all stakeholders in the business,” Adeduntan stated.

FirstBank engages in the business of commercial banking and has many subsidiaries that focus on international commercial banking, trusteeship, capital markets, pension fund custodianship, mortgage financing, insurance brokerage, and management of SMIEIS fund investments, small-scale banking, and bureau de change activities.

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Banking Sector

CRC Credit Bureau Celebrates 15 Years with Record 14% Credit Penetration in Nigeria

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CRC Credit Bureau Limited celebrated its 15th anniversary with a record 14% credit penetration rate.

The occasion was marked with the CRC Finance and Credit Conference 2024 held in Lagos, where key industry stakeholders gathered to reflect on the bureau’s journey and discuss future trends in credit risk management.

Founded in January 2010 and licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), CRC Credit Bureau has played a pivotal role in enhancing access to credit across Nigeria.

Dr. Tunde Popoola, the Group Managing Director/CEO of CRC Credit Bureau Limited, highlighted the bureau’s journey, noting that from its inception with a single product, CRC has expanded its offerings to 18 products covering all aspects of the lending value chain.

Speaking at the conference, Dr. Popoola underscored the bureau’s contribution to Nigeria’s financial sector, stating, “CRC Credit Bureau has been instrumental in transforming access to credit in Nigeria over the past 15 years. We started with a vision to simplify credit access through reliable data and have since grown to serve millions of Nigerians.”

The event focused on the theme “Sustainable Financing Options: Innovations in Credit Risk Management,” emphasizing the importance of sustainable finance amid economic challenges.

The conference provided a platform for stakeholders to discuss strategies for mitigating risks and enhancing the efficiency of credit operations in Nigeria.

Reflecting on the current state of credit penetration, Dr. Popoola noted that while Nigeria has made significant progress, the 14% penetration rate still falls below global benchmarks.

He highlighted that CRC Credit Bureau currently holds credit scores for 33 million Nigerians, facilitating over 29.4 million searches in 2023 alone, with an additional 10 million searches conducted in the first quarter of 2024.

Joel Owoade, Chairman of CRC’s Board of Directors, acknowledged the economic headwinds impacting businesses in Nigeria but stressed the importance of sustainable financing to mitigate risks associated with lending.

“As we navigate economic fluctuations, sustainable financing remains crucial to fostering economic stability and growth,” Owoade remarked.

The conference also featured insights from industry experts on leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) in credit risk management and regulatory frameworks to support AI-driven innovations.

Olaniyi Yusuf, Managing Partner of Verraki, highlighted the potential of AI to create jobs and enhance economic productivity, calling for supportive regulatory environments that balance innovation with risk management.

Representatives from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) emphasized the regulator’s efforts to promote sustainable credit practices.

Dr. Adetona Adedeji, Acting Director of the Banking Supervision Department at CBN, outlined initiatives such as the National Collateral Registry and Global Standing Instruction aimed at enhancing credit access while minimizing risks.

As CRC Credit Bureau looks ahead, Dr. Popoola expressed optimism about the future, stating, “We remain committed to driving greater financial inclusion and expanding credit access in Nigeria. Our focus is on leveraging technology and strategic partnerships to deliver innovative solutions that meet the evolving needs of consumers and lenders.”

The celebration of CRC Credit Bureau’s 15th anniversary underscored its pivotal role in Nigeria’s financial sector, marking a milestone in the nation’s journey towards broader financial inclusion and sustainable economic growth.

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Banking Sector

Guaranty Trust Holding Plans N500 Billion Share Offering

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Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc (GTCOPLC) has announced plans to raise up to N500 billion through a new share offering, according to a preliminary prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

This move aims to support the company’s ambitious growth and expansion strategy.

GTCOPLC’s proposed offering will involve the subscription of ordinary shares of 50 kobo each, although the exact number of shares and the price range are yet to be determined.

The offering includes a concurrent filing of a preliminary universal shelf registration statement, allowing the company to issue various types of securities, potentially raising up to $750 million in multiple currencies.

Purpose of the Offering

The funds raised from this offering will primarily be allocated towards:

  1. Business Growth and Expansion: GTCOPLC plans to invest significantly in technology infrastructure to enhance its current operations. Additionally, the company intends to establish new subsidiaries and make selective acquisitions of non-banking businesses.
  2. Recapitalization of Guaranty Trust Bank Limited: Part of the proceeds will be used to strengthen the capital base of its banking subsidiary.

Target Investors and Structure

The offering is structured to attract both institutional and retail investors. It will be divided into two main tranches:

  • Nigerian Tranche: An institutional and retail offering aimed at eligible investors within Nigeria.
  • International Tranche: A private placement targeting qualified institutional buyers outside Nigeria.

Listing and Trading

GTCOPLC has also filed an application with the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX) to list and admit the new ordinary shares for trading on the NGX Official List.

The company anticipates opening the offering by July 2024.

Financial Strategy

The universal shelf registration will enable GTCOPLC to issue a variety of securities over time, with a total value of up to $750 million (or its equivalent in Nigerian Naira).

This approach provides the company with flexibility to raise capital in different markets during the programme’s validity period. The current proposed offering will be the first issuance under this new programme.

Regulatory Compliance

GTCOPLC emphasized that this notice does not constitute an offer of securities for sale in the United States or to U.S. persons, as defined under Regulation S of the U.S. Securities Act of 1933.

The offered shares have not been, and will not be, registered under the U.S. Securities Act or any state securities laws, and cannot be sold in the United States without proper registration or an applicable exemption.

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Banking Sector

Fidelity Bank Launches N127.1bn Public Offer and Rights Issue on June 20

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Fidelity Bank Plc, Nigeria’s sixth-largest bank, is set to open its public offer and rights issue to investors on Thursday, June 20, 2024.

In preparation for this significant financial event, Fidelity Bank will host a “Facts Behind the Offer” presentation at the Nigerian Exchange Group (NGX) on the same day.

This presentation is expected to provide detailed insights into the bank’s strategy and the opportunities presented by the public offer and rights issue.

Under the rights issue, Fidelity Bank will offer 3.2 billion ordinary shares of 50 kobo each at N9.25 per share. These shares will be available to existing shareholders in the proportion of 1 new ordinary share for every 10 ordinary shares held as of January 5, 2024.

In addition to the rights issue, the bank will also offer 10 billion ordinary shares of 50 kobo each to the general investing public at N9.75 per share. This dual approach is part of the bank’s comprehensive strategy to raise a total of up to N127.1 billion.

The acceptance and application period for the rights issue and public offer will commence on Thursday, June 20, and close on Monday, July 29, 2024.

This timeline provides investors ample opportunity to participate in the bank’s capital expansion.

Fidelity Bank has engaged Stanbic IBTC Capital as the lead issuing house for the combined offer. The joint issuing houses include Iron Global Markets Limited, Cowry Asset Management Limited, Afrinvest Capital Limited, FSL Securities Limited, Futureview Financial Services Limited, Iroko Capital Market Advisory Limited, Kairos Capital Limited, and Planet Capital Limited.

These firms will play a crucial role in managing the offer and ensuring its success.

The bank’s initiative to raise N127.1 billion is seen as a strategic move to bolster its capital base and ensure compliance with the CBN’s revised capital requirements, which were introduced on March 28, 2024.

This capital raise is expected to enhance the bank’s capacity to support its growing customer base and expand its operations across Nigeria and beyond.

In recent years, Fidelity Bank has demonstrated robust financial performance and growth, positioning itself as a key player in Nigeria’s banking sector.

The successful completion of this public offer and rights issue will further solidify its standing and enable it to pursue new opportunities in the competitive financial landscape.

Investors and stakeholders are keenly anticipating the outcome of this capital-raising exercise, which is poised to mark a significant milestone in Fidelity Bank’s journey toward sustained growth and stability.

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