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Banking Sector

FirstBank Shows Resilience, Delivers Strong Growth Across the Board

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Adesola Adeduntan-Investors King

Just like the words of Anne Frank, the weak die out and the strong will survive. The First Bank of Nigeria Limited survived damning COVID-19, rising inflation rate, low-interest rate and the drop in economic productivity amid rising unemployment rate to deliver a 77.9% increase in profit before tax in the 2021 financial year.

Analysts and business experts who perused the impressive results attributed the overwhelming performance to a broad-based rejig of the bank’s leadership structure, reinvention of core strategies and financial technology integration at all facets of the bank.

Key Metrics

According to the financial analysts, FirstBank was able to grow its key metrics by carefully mitigating the effect of low-interest rates on investment securities and revenue generation, and then intensified deposit mobilization and funding strategy to support enhanced loan growth at optimized rates that resulted in a 5.7% increase in interest expense from ₦133.2 billion recorded in 2020 to ₦140.8 billion.

In spite of the increase in interest expense, non-interest revenue rose by 96.1% to ₦364.6 billion from ₦185.9 billion achieved in 2020. Largely due to the improved treasury activities, operating income and surge in fees and commission. During the period, operating income expanded by 35.5% from ₦437.6 billion filed in the corresponding year of 2020 to ₦592.8 billion, resulting in an improvement in cost to income ratio to 56.4% as against 66.8% in December 2020.

Digitisation

Similarly, FirstBank’s sound investment in agent banking, digitalisation and deployment of digital platforms, improved customer penetration and deepened solid retail franchise bolstered customers’ deposits by 19.5% to ₦5.9 trillion from ₦4.9 trillion in 2020 to reaffirm FirstBank’s strong market access and robust funding base.

Also, this validated the bank’s position as Nigeria’s largest financial inclusion services institution by total assets and gross earnings. With over 120,000 banking agents called Firstmonie Agents that are presently operating in 772 of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria, FirstBank has been able to facilitate and promote financial inclusion in most local governments in Nigeria.

Again, in line with its strides in over 128 years of operations, FirstBank has developed internet and mobile banking systems that have made banking easier for Nigerians at home and abroad.

Named FirstOnline, the leading Internet Banking platform in Nigeria provides unrestricted and secure access to customers at any time and anywhere through any internet-enabled device. This platform comes with classy features, impeccable user experience, convenience and is easy to use. As of June 2021, FirstOnline boasts of an impressive 597,466 customers, a 17% growth on the previous year and 578,292 transactions per month averaging a value of 388 billion per month.

This broad network ensures access to stable funding and subsequently, a reduction in the cost of fund ratio to 2.1% in the 2021 financial year.

Profitability

Having successfully restructured its businesses, FirstBank delivers ₦130.9 billion in profit before tax, a 77.9% increase from ₦73.6 billion recorded in 2020. In the same period, the bank paid ₦13.1 billion in taxes to report a 73.9% increase in profit after tax from ₦67.8 billion attained in 2020 to ₦117.8 billion. The strong profit reflects the lender’s success in leveraging Fintech and E-business for organic growth.

Presently thriving on strong fundamentals, demonstrated by impressive performance. The 128 years old bank is less risky given its robust assets, the lender grew total assets by 15.9% to ₦8.5 trillion in the year under review on the back of the increase in customers’ loans and advances to ₦2.8 trillion, a 27.7% increase from ₦2.2 trillion attained in 2020.

Non-Performing Loans

Because of FirstBank’s quality fundamentals that stem from a cleaner balance sheet, non-performing loans (NPL) declined from 7.7% in 2020 to an acceptable level of 6.1% while Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) marginally increased to 17.4% from 17.0% in 2020.

New Investment

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 will further boost the bank’s market share in the industry, aid revenue diversification and support annuity income.

FirstBank 2021 Key Financial Highlights

  • Gross earnings of ₦716.8 billion, up 30.3% y-o-y (Dec 2020: ₦550.3 billion)
  • Net interest income of ₦225.7 billion, down 7.7% y-o-y (Dec 2020: ₦244.6 billion)
  • Non-interest income of ₦342.2 billion, up 106.4% y-o-y (Dec 2020: ₦165.8 billion)
  • Operating expenses of ₦313.9 billion, up 14.3% y-o-y (Dec 2020: ₦274.6 billion)
  • Profit before tax of ₦130.9 billion, up 77.9% y-o-y (Dec 2020: ₦73.6 billion)
  • Profit after tax of ₦117.8 billion, up 73.9% y-o-y (Dec 2020: ₦67.8 billion)
  • Total assets of ₦8.5 trillion, up 15.9% y-o-y (Dec 2020: ₦7.4 trillion)
  • Customers’ loans and advances (net) of ₦2.8 trillion, up 27.7% y-o-y (Dec 2020: ₦2.2 trillion)
  • Customers’ deposits of ₦5.6 trillion, up 19.5% y-o-y (Dec 2020: ₦4.7 trillion)

Commenting on the results, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, Chief Executive Officer of FirstBank Group 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 was driven by a relentless focus on the needs of customers and improving the competitiveness of our 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.

“The demonstrated resilience of our franchise to headwinds and excellent risk management capabilities place us in a good position to weather any macro-economic shocks which may arise due to the volatile nature of current operating environment. Our Non-performing loans ratio at the end of the year was 6.1% which represents significant progress towards those of other Tier 1 banks and the regulatory threshold of 5.0%.”

“We will continue to leverage our investments in digital platforms, IT infrastructure, people, and pan-African operations to ensure this growth trend is sustained”.

 

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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Banking Sector

Ecobank Reports $401 Million Before Tax in Nine Months to September 2022

Revenue grew by 7% from $1.26 billion in recorded the same period of 2021 to $1.35 billion in the period under review.

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Ecobank - Investors King

Ecobank Group on Thursday reported a 7% increase in revenue for the nine months ended September 2022, the leading financial institution announced in its audited financial statement.

Revenue grew by 7% from $1.26 billion in recorded the same period of 2021 to $1.35 billion in the period under review.

The bank’s operating profit expanded by 12% to $593 million, up from $528 million filed in the corresponding period of 2021, Investors King reports.

Profit before tax rose to $401 million, a 14% increase from $352 million achieved in 2021. Profit paid to shareholders grew by 7% from $182 million to $196 million.

Gross loans and advances to customers increased 5% from $9.469 billion to $9.917 billion. Similarly, deposits from customers increased by declined by 2% to

Commenting on the bank’s performance, Ade Ayeyemi, CEO, Ecobank Group, said: “We continued to deliver on our strategic priorities and are on track to meet full-year targets despite the complex operating environment. Group-wide return on tangible equity reached a record 21%, and profit before tax increased by 14%, or 48% at constant currency (i.e., excluding currency movements).

“These results reflect the resilience, strong brand and diversification of our pan-African franchise. We saw decent client activity in consumer and wholesale payments, trade finance and foreign currency markets. Additionally,
despite inflationary pressures, we maintained a tight lid on costs, thereby improving our cost-to-income ratio to 56.3% from 58.3% in the previous year.

“The dampened economic outlook necessitated maintaining a sound balance sheet with adequate levels of liquidity and capital. As a result, our total capital adequacy ratio at 14.4% is well above our internal and minimum regulatory limits. Also, we hold sufficient gross impairment reserves that fully cover our non-performing loans. Moreover, we have fully repaid the five-year $400 million convertible debt we issued in September and October of 2017.

“Ecobankers have worked extremely hard to serve our customers’ financial needs, and I am proud of them. As always, we will passionately work towards realising our vision and remaining the bank that Africa and friends of Africa trust.”

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Banking Sector

Insider Dealing: Hafiz Mohammed Bashir Acquires 37 Million Shares in Unity Bank

Alhaji Bashir carried out the acquisition in 32 different transactions at an average price of N0.51 a unit between November 8th and 11th 2022

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Unity bank - Investors King

The management of Unity Bank Plc has announced that a non-Executive Director, Hafiz Mohammed Bashir scooped 37,681,947 shares of the bank.

The transaction was disclosed in a statement signed by the bank’s secretary, Alaba Williams.

Alhaji Bashir carried out the acquisition in 32 different transactions at an average price of N0.51 a unit between November 8th and 11th 2022, according to the disclosure available on the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX).

Insider dealing is the buying or selling of a company’s shares by someone with a piece of insider information not available to the public. Insider dealing is illegal in the U.S. but not in Nigeria as long as it’s disclosed.

The Nigerian Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) mandated all listed companies to disclose insider trading to enforce transparency across the nation’s Exchange market.

Also, insider dealings can help stakeholders and retail investors assess the confidence of top company executives in a listed company. While Alhaji Bashir’s acquisition could demonstrate his trust in the future of the company, it could also mean positioning ahead of a major company’s event given his position.

Hafiz Mohammed Bashir Profile

In 2017, Hafiz Mohammed Bashir was appointed as a Non-executive Director following the Central Bank of Nigeria’s approval.

Hafiz Mohammed Bashir is an accomplished professional with vast experience in the public and private sectors. He retired at the apex of Local Government Administration in Katsina State in 1992 and has chaired the Board of many companies – including Fiztom International Ltd, HafadGlobal Resources limited and Fiziks Nigeria limited.

Alh. Hafiz who is currently in private business holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from Abubakar Tafawa BalewaUniversity, Bauchi, and an Advance Diploma in Public Administration from the University of Jos, a higher Diploma in Local Government Administration- AhmaduBello University. Zaria and Diploma in Insurance from ABU, Zaria He is also currently undergoing a Master’s programme in Business   Administration at the Business School of the Netherlands.

See the details of the transactions below.

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Banking Sector

McKinsey Global Banking Annual Review: Banking on a Sustainable Path

African banks have experienced a strong recovery in profitability, with average ROEs up from 12% in 2020 to 15% forecast for 2022

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Global Banking - Investors King

McKinsey has released its yearly state of the industry report providing an in-depth look at banking in today’s volatile environment and its future prospects.

This year marked the biggest shift in global banking for over a decade, providing banks with both the opportunity (from higher margins and the fintech correction) and the need (as a result of macroeconomic volatility and growing sector divergence) to master a dual challenge: maintain resilience in the short term while accelerating the transformation into a future-proof, sustainable value creation model.

The divergence in performance between leading banks and the rest continues to grow. Despite higher margins from rising interest rates and a stronger capital position, more than half of the world’s banks continue to struggle with profitability and have a return on equity that is below their cost of capital. But all banks can focus now on improving their short-term resilience and preparing for longer-term opportunities. The report examines strategies that have allowed some players to rise above the fray and outperform.

Among the opportunities is sustainable finance, which is on the cusp of a “next era” as banks finance not just clean energy but a broad array of transformational low-carbon projects across industry sectors. Debt-focused investment supporting the transition to net zero alone could represent revenue potential for banks of at least $100 billion annually by 2030.

What this means for African Banks

In line with banks globally, African banks have experienced a strong recovery in profitability, with average ROEs up from 12% in 2020 to 15% forecast for 2022. This could mean relatively stable ROEs for African banks over the next 5 years despite global macroeconomic shocks. But there is also significant variance across the continent, with banks in Nigeria and Kenya, in particular, trading at price-to-book ratios well below 1, Morocco trading over 1, and South Africa well over 2 on average (amongst the highest in the world).

“This boost in profitability gives African institutions the breathing room to improve their short-term resilience as we face the global challenges of continued geopolitical shocks. It also gives them the opportunity to continue investing in technology to enable growth,” says Francois Jurd de Girancourt, a partner in McKinsey’s Casablanca office, and leader of the firm’s Financial Institutions Group in Africa.

Africa could be one of the fastest growing regions for banking revenue globally (6-7% in local currency terms) in 2022—led by North Africa (9%) and West Africa (7%) with a revenue pool of ~$100bn. The picture is lower but remains positive if currency depreciation is taken into account. This growth is underpinned by deepening penetration of banking services and rising interest rates adding to opportunities in payments and transactional banking and is aided by the ongoing explosion of fintech activity across the continent.

“In Nigeria, agile and innovative startups are taking advantage of increased technology penetration and high levels of unmet needs in the traditional banking sector to seize market share. A youthful population, increasing smartphone penetration, and a focused regulatory drive to increase financial inclusion and cashless payments are all contributing to this shift,” says Edem Seshie, an associate partner, in McKinsey’s Lagos office.

Much like the rest of Africa and the world, sustainable finance in Nigeria is also entering the ‘next era’—shifting from a focus on renewables to a broader set of deployment across the energy transition. 

Africa’s efforts to navigate the energy transition and adapt to climate change are likely to be supported by investor demand for sustainability-linked bonds, which have grown from 2% of bonds in 2017 to ~8% in 2022 (>$1.7bn of sustainability-linked bonds issued).

To fully take off, climate finance will require clearer definitions and better metrics. There are a number of opportunities across CIB, commercial and small-business banking, retail banking, and wealth and asset management. Examples of business building are emerging across geographies as banks recognize the capital need required to support the transition and the role the industry plays.

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