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FirstBank Bounces Back To Its Leadership Position, Delivers A Fantastic Performance In 2021

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Excitement In Shareholders' Camp As FirstBank Sheds NPL Burden

…Impressive results signpost a regime of strong fundamentals after a period of restructuring by the leadership – Money Market & Capital Market Analysts

Festus Akanbi Writes

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 midwife 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 mobilization and funding strategy to support enhanced loan growth at optimized 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 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, digitalization, 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 have 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 organization 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 stabilize 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 maximize the revenue-generating capacity of our business to boost the bottom line and fulfill 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.

Culled from ThisDay

Money Market

Polaris Bank Promotes SMEs, Sponsors The Fashion Souk

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Valentine Season: Polaris Bank Excites Existing, Prospective Customers With Mouthwatering Rewards

…as The Fashion Souk holds December 3 and 4, 2022

Polaris Bank has reaffirmed its commitment to support the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria.

The Bank in a statement gave this assurance while disclosing plans to sponsor The Fashion Souk 7.0.

The statement further noted that 3 successful entrepreneurs who emerge winners in a business pitch at the event will go home with N1million, N500,000, and N250,000 for the overall winner, first runner-up, and second runner-up respectively.

The two-day event, which is organised in partnership with Nigeria’s foremost event management company, EVENTFUL Limited is scheduled to hold on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th of December 2022, at Harbour Point, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Speaking on behalf of Polaris Bank, the Group Head, Strategic Brand Management, Nduneche Ezurike, said that “Fashion and style enthusiasts can once again look forward to experiencing unparalleled fashion moments from Nigerian entrepreneurs.”

Mr. Ezurike noted that “As a SMEs-friendly Bank, it is always our delight to explore opportunities to grow Nigeria’s Small and Medium Enterprises. Polaris Bank’s lead sponsorship of the 7th edition of The Fashion Souk, underscores our acknowledgment of the SMEs as the catalyst for Nigerian’s economic growth.”

Continuing, he noted that “this year’s Fashion Souk is unique as it provides an opportunity for the yuletide holidaymakers with an unforgettable shopping experience as visitors will behold the creativity of the Nigerian entrepreneurs, especially in the beauty and fashion space.”

Mr. Ezurike further stated that Polaris Bank’s continued partnership with EVENTFUL Limited stimulates the entrepreneurial spirit of many Nigerians, especially the new-age innovators in the key sectors of the national economy. He commended Eventful Ltd for visibly showcasing the enterprise amongst Nigerians.

Commenting on the essence of the SOUK, Founder and Chairman of Eventful and Convener of the Fashion Souk, Yewande Zaccheaus, said: “Eventful Limited has been deliberate in using the platform of The Fashion Souk to create the much-needed road to market for budding fashion entrepreneurs whilst also expanding the target market of the more established designers. “We are proud to once again contribute to the growth of the nation’s economy,” she added.

More than 160 SMEs in Nigeria’s fashion industry, ranging from manufacturers to designers and retailers in clothing, kids’ fashion, textiles, jewelry, accessories, hats, bags, shoes, and lingerie, are billed to showcase their creativity and product lines at the Fashion Souk.

According to December 2021 industry report, the Sub-Saharan African fashion market is worth $31 billion, with Nigeria holding an expanding share of 15 percent.

In line with its SME focus, Polaris Bank has partnered with and supported businesses in critical sectors of the Nigerian economy, including health, education, manufacturing, agriculture, export, and others. The Bank has advanced credits and indeed, provided close to N70billions to Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSMEs) from January 2021 till date.

Following the Bank’s recent strides in supporting SMEs and MSMEs, the prestigious BusinessDay’s Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards named Polaris Bank the MSME Bank of the Year 2022.

Polaris Bank, adjudged Digital Bank of the Year 2021 and 2022, is a future-determining Bank committed to delivering industry-defining products for individuals and businesses

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Union Bank Unveils Brand New Sonic Identity – The Sound Of Union

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Union Bank Unveils Brand New Sonic Identity – The Sound Of Union

By Moninuola Sulaiman

Union Bank of Nigeria launched a sonic identity tagged ‘The Sound of Union. At 105 years, the Bank is now leveraging the universality of music to engage with new and existing audiences through this unique sound identity.

The Bank tapped prolific and award-winning music producer Tee-Y Mix, to create a timeless sound and interpret it across multiple genres for today’s and tomorrow’s generations.

Speaking about The Sound of Union during the official Twitter Space unveiling, Ogochukwu Ekezie-Ekaidem, Chief Brand and Marketing Officer, at Union Bank, spoke about why the Bank is unveiling the sound identity at this time. She said: “Over the past couple of years, Union Bank has gone through significant evolution, and as a team, we are constantly thinking of ways to connect with our audiences – new and existing.

At 105 years, we are entering a new era of identity and the Sound of Union represents a milestone for us. We have produced a distinct tone and instrumental melody spanning five music genres drawing on our local culture to connect with audiences across different geographical zones. We believe we are the first Nigerian bank to create an identity using sound, and not just a one-off jingle or payoff. This launch underscores our commitment to providing the simplest and smartest solutions while offering the best experience for our customers.”

Union Bank Unveils Brand New Sonic Identity – The Sound Of Union

To launch the sound identity, Union Bank has partnered with Boomplay to release an EP that will include the melody’s five genres, making the EP available exclusively to Boomplay subscribers for a period before it is available on other platforms.

Also commenting during the Twitter Space, about the audio distribution partnership between Union Bank and Boomplay, James Afuwape, Marketing Manager at Boomplay said: “Boomplay is the largest and fastest-growing streaming platform in Africa, and we are passionate about building and sustaining the music culture and consumption in Africa. We do this by leveraging partnerships and collaborations and this one with Union Bank was one we couldn’t pass up on. The Sound of Union is a unique project, and we are honoured to use our platform to help amplify the sound.”

The Sound of Union EP is now streaming exclusively on Boomplay. Click here to listen

Know More About Union Bank Plc: Established in 1917 and listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 1971 now Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX), Union Bank of Nigeria Plc. is a household name and one of Nigeria’s long-standing and most respected financial institutions. The Bank is a trusted and recognizable brand, with an extensive network of over 300 branches across Nigeria.

The Bank currently offers a variety of banking services to both individual and corporate clients including current, savings, and deposit account services, funds transfer, foreign currency domiciliation, loans, overdrafts, equipment leasing, and trade finance. The Bank also offers its customers convenient electronic banking channels and products including Online Banking, Mobile Banking, Debit Cards, ATMs, and POS Systems.

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Stanbic IBTC Bank Nigeria PMI® – New Order Growth Hits Six-Month High In November

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By Moninuola Sulaiman

…Faster rises in output and new orders

…Inflationary pressures remain elevated

…Business confidence at a survey-record low

By Moninuola Sulaiman

Business conditions continued to improve markedly in the Nigerian private sector during November amid improving demand and higher customer numbers.

In turn, firms expanded their purchasing activity and employment. That said, business confidence dropped to the lowest since the survey began in January 2014. Meanwhile, inflationary pressures remained elevated, often reflecting currency weakness.

The headline figure derived from the survey is the Purchasing Managers’ Index™ (PMI®). Readings above 50.0 signal an improvement in business conditions in the previous month, while readings below 50.0 show a deterioration.

The headline PMI rose to 54.3 in November from 53.6 in October, pointing to a solid monthly improvement in business conditions in the Nigerian private sector. The health of the private sector has now strengthened in 29 successive months, with the latest improvement the most pronounced since April.

New business increased at the fastest pace in six months amid reports of stronger demand and higher customer numbers. Companies responded to rising demand by increasing their business activity accordingly. Output has now risen in each of the past five months.

Marked increases in activity were seen across each of the four broad sectors covered by the survey. New order growth also encouraged companies to expand their employment and purchasing activity midway through the final quarter of the year.

Staffing levels increased for the twenty-second month running and at the fastest pace since August. Meanwhile, the rate of growth in purchasing activity was the steepest in four months. Similarly, inventories also expanded at a marked pace.

Purchase costs rose at a sharper pace as the weakness of the Nigerian naira against the US dollar exacerbated rising raw material prices. Staff costs were also up, linked both to higher staffing levels and efforts to motivate workers by increasing wages.

The passing on of higher input costs to customers meant that output prices also increased markedly, with the rate of inflation quickening to a three-month high.

Despite the generally positive picture for output and new orders in November, business confidence continued to decline. Optimism dropped for the fourth successive month and was the lowest since the survey began in January 2014. Those firms that were confident in the year-ahead outlook for output mentioned business expansion plans and hopes for a further strengthening of demand.

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