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IT’S FIRSTBANK’S FINEST HOUR

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IT’S FIRSTBANK’S FINEST HOUR

 

Dazzles stakeholders with growth across key metrics

Rising from a lower profit margin of N10.2billion and a debilitating Non-Performing Loan portfolio of 45 per cent in 2015, to an impressive profit of N147billion and a significantly lowered NPL rate of 5.6 per cent in 2022, FirstBank has proven that its back-to-back profit-making is far beyond recoveries made, but rather it’s a reinforcement of a well-articulated growth trajectory driven by a committed, competent and experienced Board and management team, writes Festus Akanbi

There seems to be a consensus among watchers of the Nigerian banking sector that these days, the changing dynamics foisted on the nation’s economy by both the current local and international economic realities are already taking their toll on Nigerian banks.

As the nation’s population rises, so also the need for banking services by the people. However, the rise in population and the corresponding rise in the number of unbanked and underbanked Nigerians are creating a new dimension of competition among banks in the country.

Therefore, as competition for the sphere of influence becomes fierce, analysts said only banks with a track record of consistent preparation for emerging challenges will stand the test of time, especially in a period of regime change with its attendant restructuring in the Nigerian economic policies.

FirstBank Returns with Solid Fundamentals

Top on the list of banks in this category is FirstBank Limited, a subsidiary of FBN Holdings Plc. This is because, from whatever angle one looks at its performance trajectory, especially in the last seven years, what is constant is the sustained growth in its deliveries coupled with its stabilization and return to the top of the ladder of the Nigerian banking industry.

The bank has over the years taken some far-reaching decisions, which observers said have created a new benchmark in the Nigerian banking industry, especially with its triumphant return to solid profitability within a period of seven years.

For example, in its full-year results for 2022, the bank was been able to record tremendous improvements in all performance metrics surveyed by our correspondent. It grew the number of total customer accounts from 10 million in 2015 to 41 million customer accounts as of December 2022. Its total number of issued cards rose from seven million in 2015 to 12 million last year.

Also within a spate of seven years, the number of its FirstMobile users rose to 6.1 million, while the number of FirstOnline users was put at 1.1 million in 2022. Its USSD users were said to have hit 14.7 million while the number of its total digital banking customers rose from 600,000 in 2015 to 22 million in 2022.

Agent Banking

In the same category is the bank’s agent banking business where FirstMonie agent banking is reaching out to customers in unbanked or underbanked regions to process financial requests through registered agents. This was non-existent in 2015, but by 2022, the bank could boast of 200,000 direct agents in all the crannies of the country. Analysts are quick to remind us that if we factor in the fact that most of the agent bankers usually employ about two additional staff, what it means is that FirstBank has empowered about 600,000 people.

Performance Indicators

To show for its policy consistency, innovation and its recovery measures since 2015, a comparative analysis of the performance indicators in the bank’s statement of account between the 2015 and 2022 figures confirmed analysts’ vote of confidence in the board and management of FirstBank.

For instance, the bank has significantly grown its customer deposit from N2.905 billion in 2015 to N7.351 billion in 2022. Its total assets rose from N3.973 billion in 2015 to N10.605 billion in 2022.

 

It improved on its profit before tax of N10.2 billion in 2015 which grew to N147.3 billion last year. Other metrics include a major improvement in the bank’s pretax return on equity from 0.6 per cent in 2015 to 17.3 per cent in 2022, while its pretax return on asset moved from 0.1 per cent to 1.6per cent. The bank also recorded an appreciable reduction in the cost of funds from 3.6 per cent in 2015 to 2.1 per cent in 2022.

Lower Rate of Non-Performing Loans

However, one major development is the ability of the bank’s leadership to free the institution from the burden of non-performing loans which trended down from 45 per cent in 2015 to 5.6 per cent in 2022.

In response to the ongoing turnaround of the bank initiated in 2015, the latest performance figures showed that the African subsidiaries of the bank have shed their negative position of 2015 to profitability and they indeed contributed 21.3 per cent of its PBT for the year under review.

Perhaps, the most visible indication that FirstBank has returned to profitability is the quantum jump in its share price which moved from N4.88 to N14.17.

First Bank’s Laudable Firsts

Industry watchers said the bank’s return to solid profitability can also be assessed in terms of its areas of concentration as a growing concern.

It’s on record that FirstBank has many records of being the first. It was the first financial institution to be established in West Africa; the first Nigerian company to emerge Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria for six consecutive years in the globally renowned brand Finance Surveys and the first Nigerian bank to surpass 200,000 agent banking locations as an exceptional financial inclusion pioneer.

Other pioneering records include its emergence as the first bank to reach N1trillion ((US$8 billion) market capitalisation on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE); the first financial institution to engage in a N100 billion (US$800 million) hybrid offer that marked the largest public offer on the Nigerian capital market and the first Nigerian bank to establish an off-shore subsidiary – FirstBank UK Ltd.

Unique Products’ Offerings

The bank is also reputed as the first financial institution to support a centre on Sustainability in partnership with the Lagos Business School.

Then referred to as the FirstBank Sustainability Centre, it was used as a case study for global best practice in terms of “Partnerships with Business Schools to Advance Sustainability (Ideas that Inspire Action)” championed by the Principles for Management Education (PRME) and the United Nations Global Compact LEAD. It’s the commitment to advancing Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) that earned the Bank several awards including the Market Leader Nigeria (ESG) by Euromoney Market Leaders 2022.

Q1, 2023 Results

Expectedly, the bank has continued to receive impressive ratings ever since its first quarter 2023 result was made public, with analysts saying the transformation has further confirmed the claim of its management that it has rebuilt FirstBank with solid fundamentals.

For instance, gross earnings recorded a substantial increase of 44.2 per cent year-on-year, while its net interest income saw a remarkable surge of 50.9 per cent year-on-year on the back of optimal asset pricing and effective management of interest-earning assets.

Speaking on the results, the Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan disclosed that increasing penetration of digital and transaction banking offerings supported the bank’s Q1 performance in non-interest income by 15.3 per cent growth, adding that “The increase of 21 per cent year-on-year in operating expense reflects the high inflationary environment but within revenue growth. Overall, the Commercial Banking Group delivered substantial growth of 57 per cent and 54.8 per cent in profit before tax and profit after tax, respectively, for the quarter.”

The Making of a Transaction-led Institution

Another game-changer in the story of the transformation of FirstBank was the conscious attempt of the board and management to make the bank a transaction-led institution.

Analysts said the feat was achievable because of the commitment of the bank’s management to invest and deploy technology to the fullest.

For instance, FirstBank is the first to begin the Technology Academy in Nigeria and this has helped the bank to build a transaction-led “machine” -a digital infrastructure that can accommodate huge transactions. Today, the bank has been able to grow its customer accounts to 42 million-as against the 10 million it recorded in 2015, while it has over 22 million active customers on its digital channels.

Adeduntan explained further that “In cleaning up the bank, there was no additional fund injection, which is the most dramatic thing. That means we have been able to achieve all these without shareholders losing their business. What happened was that we did our own AMCON by cleaning our books ourselves without any external capital injection.

Human Resources

Realising the pivotal role of its employees, the bank decided to invest in its staff while it sought external assistance on areas it couldn’t address locally. Thisday gathered that the bank liaised with international institutions like Standard Chartered; Citibank and JP Morgan.

The bank also has a structured succession plan having initiated a development plan in 2015 that allows most if not all the vacancies in the bank to be filled internally.

The bank also put in place a Senior Management Development Programme (SMDP), which is an intensive modular programme for a select group of senior managers to principal managers who are proven leaders in their respective functions and have been identified as central to the Bank’s succession plan.

Other initiatives include the Leadership Acceleration Programme (LAP), which was specifically designed to develop and infuse critical leadership and change agents within the middle management staff cadre of the Bank. The list also includes First Bank Management Associate Programme, a 24-month fast-track comprehensive programme targeted at young, dynamic and highly driven individuals that are passionate about making a difference in the financial services industry. The programme is designed to build the next generation of leaders to drive the Bank’s vision of being Africa’s Bank of First Choice.

FirstBank’s Performance Indicators (2015 Versus 2022)

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Guaranty Trust HoldCo Proposes N500bn Share Offering

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Guaranty Trust HoldCo Proposes N500bn Share Offering

Guaranty Trust HoldCo Proposes N500bn Share Offering

Guaranty Trust Holding Company (GTCO) Plc, said it has filed a preliminary ‘red herring’ prospectus with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to raise N500 billion.

The Company in a notice said the number of ordinary shares to be offered and the price range for the proposed offering have not yet been determined.
The notice said “this is issued in reliance on Rule 283 of the Rules & Regulations of SEC, Nigeria. The notice read in part, this does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any securities.

“Any offer, solicitation or offer to buy, or any sale of securities will be made only by a prospectus duly registered by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nigeria (SEC) in accordance with the provisions of the Investments and Securities Act, No. 29, 2007 (the Act) and the rules and regulations of the SEC made pursuant to the Act (the SEC Rules).”

Stating the purpose of the proposed offering, the notice further said that, “the net proceeds of the proposed offering will be used for the growth and expansion of the GTCO Group’s businesses. Such planned growth and expansion will be effected through investments in technology infrastructure to fortify existing operations, the establishment of new subsidiaries and selective acquisitions of non-banking businesses; and the recapitalisation of Guaranty Trust Bank Limited.”

It added that “the proposed offering is structured as an institutional offering targeted at eligible investors and a retail offering within Nigeria and a private placing to persons reasonably believed to be qualified institutional buyers outside Nigeria (the international tranche).”

It noted that the proposed offering is anticipated to open by July, 2024, adding that the filing of the red herring prospectus was undertaken with a concurrent filing of a preliminary universal shelf registration statement.

“The universal shelf registration will permit GTCO to establish a multi-currency securities issuance programme (the Programme) to issue various types of securities, or any combination of such securities, in one or more offerings, from time to time, to raise proceeds in an aggregate amount of up to $750 million or equivalent amount in Nigerian naira) in the Nigerian/international capital markets during the validity period of the Programme.”

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Wema Bank concludes 1st tranche of capital raise programme

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Wema Bank concludes 1st tranche of capital raise programme

Wema Bank concludes 1st tranche of capital raise programme

 

Wema Bank, Nigeria’s foremost innovative bank and pioneer of Africa’s first fully digital bank, ALAT, has successfully concluded the first tranche of its recapitalisation exercise having secured all relevant regulatory approvals for the allotment of its N40bn Rights Issue which was initiated in December 2023.

In view of macroeconomic conditions, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in March 2024, launched a recapitalisation programme requiring commercial banks to raise fresh capital in alignment with the minimum requirement for their respective banking licenses, within a 24-month timeline spanning April 1, 2024, to March 31, 2026.

The goal of this recapitalisation programme is to simultaneously boost the Nigerian economy and strengthen the Nigerian financial services industry.

As a forward-thinking and pioneering bank, Wema Bank in December 2023 launched a N40bn Rights issue which has now been approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). With this remarkable development, Wema Bank has now successfully raised N40bn of the N200bn minimum requirement laid down by the CBN.

In a statement made to the public by the Bank, Moruf Oseni, Wema Bank’s Managing Director and CEO, iterated the Bank’s resolve in retaining its Commercial Banking license with National Authorisation, adding that the N40bn Rights Issue is a step in that direction.

“We are delighted to announce the conclusion of the 1st tranche of our Capital Raise Programme, after obtaining the relevant approvals of all regulatory authorities. Our move to commence our Capital Raise Programme very early demonstrates our push for excellence and with a strong emphasis on our digital play, we are set to amass more successes in the coming months.”

“We were impressed by the vote of confidence given by our shareholders during the 1st Rights Issue exercise as our shares were fully subscribed. In addition, we obtained the approval of shareholders at our 2023 Annual General Meeting (AGM) to raise an additional N150billion to meet the capitalisation threshold set by the CBN. The process is expected to be completed within 12-18 months. We are committed to providing optimum returns for every stakeholder and the successful conclusion of this N40bn Rights Issue is a bold step in the right direction.”

In addition to the upward trend in the Bank’s financial performance and the success recorded so far in its recapitalisation exercise, Wema Bank’s corporate rating was recently upgraded to BBB+ by Pan African credit rating agency, Agusto and Co, and retained at BBB by international rating agency, Fitch.

Over the medium to long term, Wema Bank is positioned to dominate not only the digital Banking space but also the Nigerian financial services industry at large as it translates its industry leadership to significant market share.

Wema Bank is a leading financial services entity with banking operations across Nigeria, its leadership position in the digital banking space speaks to its aspirations to liberate Nigerian businesses and entrepreneurs by making digital platforms widely available.

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Zenith Bank confirms Sirika’s daughter owns a company linked to N1.4 billion Aviation contract

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Zenith Bank confirms Sirika’s daughter owns a company linked to N1.4 billion Aviation contract

Zenith Bank confirms Sirika’s daughter owns a company linked to N1.4 billion Aviation contract

A compliance officer from Zenith Bank Plc, Mishelia Arhyel, told the Federal Capital Territory High Court Abuja on Tuesday that former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika’s daughter, Fatima, and son-in-law, Jalal Hamma, owned Al-Buraq Global Investment Ltd, a company the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) indicted in an aviation fraud suit.

Arhyel testified as EFCC’s second witness in the fraud-related charges instituted against Hadi Sirika and his daughter, Fatima, son-in-law, Jalal Hamma, and Al-Buraq Investment Ltd.

The defendants had been arraigned before Justice Sylvanus Oriji of the FCT High Court.

EFCC’s Case
The EFCC had indicted Hadi Sirika, in an alleged contract fraud involving his daughter and son-in-law as well as fraudulent practices associated with the Nigeria Air debacle.

Sirika was accused of allegedly using his position to unfairly benefit Tianaero Nigeria Limited and Al Buraq Global Investment Ltd; companies allegedly associated with his associate, daughter, and son-in-law.

He was said to have influenced the award of contracts for the Nigerian Air project and the Apron Extension at Katsina Airport to these companies.

The EFCC alleges that N1.4 billion was approved to Al-Buraq for the Apron Extension contract at Katsina Airport.

The defendants are accused of breach of trust and misuse of public office to the tune of over N2 billion naira in contravention of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act and the Penal Code Act.

But they all pleaded not guilty to the charges paving the way for the commencement of trial.

What transpired in court
Led in evidence by EFCC lead counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), Arhyel, said his role as a compliance officer involves receiving correspondence from law enforcement agencies on behalf of Zenith Bank and forwarding the same to appropriate authorities as well as responding to inquiries.

He confirmed that sometime in February 2023, the bank received a letter from EFCC making inquiries regarding accounts statements on Al-Buraq, Jalal Hama and Fatima.

The prosecution counsel then tendered the bank statements of the defendants and it was admitted by the court unopposed by the defense legal team.

Speaking to the documents, Arhyel told Justice Oriji that Al-Buraq was registered on June 17, 2021, and the directors are Hamal Jalal, Sirika Fatima Hadi and Shinade Saratu.

According to the witness, the ex-minister’s daughter and in-law have significant control over Al-Buraq.

“Sirika Fatima Hadi is the secretary of the company.

“Persons in significant control of the company are Hamal Jalal and Sirika Fatima Hadi.

“The signatories are Saratu Muhammad, Fatima Hadi Sirika, and Jalal Hamal,” the witness told the court corroborating EFCC’s allegations.

Earlier in the proceedings, Azubuike Okorie, a former Special Assistant to the ex-Aviation Minister, Projects(2022-2023) said it was the frustration posed by the Nigerian Air Force and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) that prevented the execution of the Kastina Airport extension contract.

Under cross-examination by the defense team led by Kanu Agabi (SAN), Okorie said the contract went through due process and had nothing to do with the competence and honesty of the contractor.

The witness claimed the relationship between Sirika, his family members and associates was not a factor considered in the contract awarded to Al-Buraq.

The court subsequently adjourned the trial to June 20, 2024.

Backstory
The EFCC had said its operatives arrested Abubakar Ahmad Sirika, the brother of Hadi Sirika, over an alleged contract fraud in the aviation ministry.

Abubakar was picked up by the anti-graft agency on Sunday, February 4, following an investigation in the Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development.

During his tenure as minister, Sirika faced allegations including conspiracy, abuse of office, diversion of public funds, contract inflation, criminal breach of trust, and money laundering totalling N8,069,176,864.

The commission had revealed that the funds in dispute related to four aviation contracts awarded by the former minister to a company called Engirios Nigeria Limited, which is owned by his younger brother.

The EFCC is empowered by law to track financial crimes.

Every accused person remains innocent until found guilty by a competent court.

Sirika served as aviation minister from 22 August 2019 to 29 May 2023.

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