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By: Manny Ita

Financial experts and shareholders on Saturday expressed mixed reactions over the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria to revoke the licence of Skye Bank.
The stakeholders expressed their views in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos, while reacting to the revocation of the licence of Skye Bank by the apex bank.
Prof. Sheriffdeen Tella of the Economics department, Olabisi Onabanjo University Ago-Iwoye, Ogun commended the decision of the apex bank.
Tella said the CBN had helped Skye Bank shareholders by making the announcement at the close of banking hour for the week.
He said the announcement at the close of the week prevented an immediate run on the bank.
According to him, announcement of a bridge bank was also helpful and would prevent a run on the bank in the coming week.
“There is no time that can be regarded as good for this kind of action but action must be taken whenever it becomes inevitable.
“Such actions are capable of dousing tension that normally follows sudden closure of banks,” Tella said.
He said the shareholders had not really benefited from the bank because they had not received dividend on their investment for a long time.
The economist said in other climes where shareholders were active investors, they would have sold their shares to minimise losses.
“But in Nigeria, majority hold on to their shares even when it is apparent the business is sliding down,” Tella added.
He, however, said the impact on the economy and the banking sector, in particular, may not be serious, unless another bank ran into trouble within three to six months.
Malam Garba Kurfi, the Managing Director, APT Securities and Funds Ltd., said the decision of the apex bank as a regulator could not be faulted.
Kurfi said the development should serve as a lesson to both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Nigerian Stock Exchange to put their house in order.
He noted that SEC and NSE should be more active going forward by ensuring suspension of trading on the shares of any bank taken over by CBN to avoid making a mockery of the capital market.
He said Skye Bank shares traded on the exchange on September 21 and made some gains only for the licence to be revoked the same day.
“CBN has been demonstrating several times that it has no regards for shareholders but only depositors and as at today the only loser in the bank are the shareholders,” Kurfi said.
He said the shareholders should learn from past experience by exiting any bank taken over by the CBN to avoid regrets.

Mr Uche Nworah, the General Manager, Anambra Broadcasting Service, Awka, said the mandate of the apex bank and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation was to safeguard depositors.
Nworah said the CBN must have seen a lot of things in the bank before deciding to revoke the licence to protect investors and depositors.
He, however, faulted the apex bank’s approach in terms of information management.
Nworah said the bank’s customers and depositors were the ones that alerted the workers of what was going on in Awka, Anambra State.
Mr Moses Igbrude, Publicity Secretary, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria, said the takeover of Skye Bank was a very sad and avoidable story.
Igbrude described the takeover as a total loss for all the bank’s minority shareholders.
He linked the bank’s failure to the acquisition of the former Afribank against the shareholders’ advice.
“The story started some few years ago when the former management decided to expand by acquiring former Afribank and later Mainstream Bank against the advice of some of us shareholders not to do so.
“They refused to listen to us when we told them that Mainstream Bank was cancerous and political exposed, that the intrigue that would follow the acquisition would consume the bank.
“While shareholders of Skye Bank have lost their investments, what happened to the management who took the decision and those professional consultants who did the due diligence reports that the management relies on to take decision?
“It is high time regulators address the issue of fake consultants, who parade themselves as professionals or else this will continue to happen,” Igbrude said.
Mr Boniface Okezie, National Coordinator, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, said the CBN needed to explain its actions to Nigerians for better understanding.
Okezie said the apex bank needed to find a lasting solution to the banking sector crisis which was becoming an embarrassment not only to government but to the investing public.
He said the CBN should be held responsible for the development in Skye Bank because it granted the bank the approval to acquire Afribank.
Okezie said the investors should not be allowed to suffer again for the misdeeds and mistakes of the regulations.
He called on the Federal Government to investigate the collapse of banks in the country.
Okezie added that the past management and board of Skye Bank must be made to account for what led to the bank’s misfortune.

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BUSINESS

FIRSTBANK DEEPENS FINANCIAL INCLUSION WITH LARGEST AGENT BANKING NETWORK, EMPOWERS SMES

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At present, there are over 86,000 banking agents across 772 out of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria, a demonstration of FirstBank’s commitment to deepening financial inclusion and ensuring the unbanked are adequately catered for. In an interview with BusinessDay, Adesola Adeduntan, FirstBank’s CEO, noted that over N9.6 trillion had been processed through the bank’s agent network.

As he explained, FirstMonie agents have supported several government and NGOs’ cash transfers to the poorest of the poor in the rural areas. Additionally, selected FirstMonie agents in the rural communities are equipped with BVN enrolment devices; as such they are able to enrol and open accounts for rural dwellers that hitherto may not have had the opportunity to be included in the formal financial services system.

The bank’s commitment to providing access to finance for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) was also highlighted by the CEO, who hinged this on “their potential to impact the economy”.

He discussed the bank’s value adding solutions that have created a functional ecosystem for SMEs to thrive. The ecosystem includes propositions such as connection of the SMEs to talents and resources/cutting edge tools, access to business finance and market, capacity building opportunities and policy advocacy.

These are all aggregated on its SMEConnect platform as value adding products and services for easy access and at rates (prices) that are competitive and mostly discounted. The SMEConnect is a digital platform that allows the SMEs connect to FirstBank’s offerings from the comfort of their locations anywhere in the world.

This, according to Adeduntan, has been well received by the SME community as we engage across the country.

Culled from BusinessDay

 

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UBA’s LEO: Celebrating three Years of Revolutionised Banking Services

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Technology has been a veritable gift to mankind, and over the years, it has been responsible for creating amazingly useful resources which put all the information individuals need at their fingertips. The development of technology has also led to so many mind-blowing discoveries, better facilities, and better luxuries, which has in-turn helped to improve lifestyle and standard of living.

For instance, through relevant technological development, the average individual has been empowered to shop online and carry out seamless transaction any time of the day or night from the comfort of his own home or business place.

To this end, forward thinking companies and financial institutions with eyes in the future who have been conversant with the new trend in customer behaviour, have painstakingly designed new products and services tailor-made to meet the growing needs of customers anytime anywhere.

It is bearing this in mind that Pan-African financial Institution, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, changed the face of e-banking in the African continent for the first time with the introduction of Leo – UBA’s Chat Banker. The idea of Leo, which was birthed in 2018, was to enable customers make use of their social media accounts to carry out key banking transactions with ease.

This is the first time ever that a financial institution in Africa evolved a one-stop solution to simplify the way customers transact, a key essential in today’s fast-paced world with demands for quick-time transactions and response.

With Leo’s help, customers have been able to open new accounts with ease, receive instant transaction notifications, check their balances on the go, transfer funds and airtime top up. Cheque confirmation, bill payments, loan application, account freezing, request for mini statements, flight bookings, airtime and data purchases, are some other services that the chat banking BOT has been helping customers to carry out since 2018.

And Leo, the Artificial Intelligent Bot which carries out seamless conversations with his customers – who he calls his friends by the way- has achieved this and more in its three-year existence; allowing users to carry out quick, fast and recurring transaction with ease from their popular social media accounts such as Facebook and Whatsapp.

No wonder the bank has earned a lot of laurels and accolades in the last three years confirming Leo’s global acceptance and recognitions, as pointed out by UBA’s Group Manging Director, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka, some of which are:

‘Africa’s Best Digital Bank of the year’ by Euromoney; The Most; Innovative Bank of the year’ by International Finance; ‘Best Customer Engagement Tool’ by Africa Fintech; Pulse magazine rated Leo on WhatsApp as ‘The best WhatsApp Banking App’; ‘The Best Social Banking platform’ in Uganda; ‘Excellence in Automated Chatbot Initiative’ by Finnovex Awards; ‘Next Generation Class of 2019’ by CIBN; ‘Best Automated Chatbot Initiative, Application or Programme’ by The Asian Banker. The list is endless.

“The formulation of this product, is consistent with UBA’s Customer 1st philosophy, where we have been doing things not the way we like, but focusing on what the customers want, where they want it, and in the exact platform they want it; Uzoka explained. “At UBA, we have been continuously working with technology giants that have the global capacity to ensure not only seamless but also effortless banking for the millions of our customers across Africa; as all the bank’s subsidiaries in Africa have activated Leo to perform financial services for customers.

Continuing, he said, “Since 2018, Leo has been helping with most transactions and to deliver any form of banking services. And this has been highlighted more especially during the lockdown occasioned by the COvid-19 virus, as Leo assisted all its users on all major social media platforms to carry out all their banking activities without having to physically visit a branch. This, to us, remains an admirable feat because with Leo, the banking needs of our customers have become easy and simple – as simple as chatting”; Uzoka pointed out.

Within three years of operations, UBA’s Leo has recorded a number of milestones including opened a total of 390,756 accounts; achieving 2,169,384 subscribers; conducting a total of 9,605,703 transaction count worth a value of N81,530,918,868. Leo which has over 2.1m unique users has also generated over 20 million conversations and over 85 million engagements; with such impressive feedback and usage and remains the only AI BoT showcased at the F8 in Mark’s Zuckerberg’s opening remarks.

UBA’s Group Head, Digital Banking, Sampson Aneke, reiterated that Leo is not just a chat machine, but an artificial intelligence personality meant to address any type of banking concerns raised by customers.

“Leo has been operating a secure lifestyle banking platform on Facebook messenger, WhatsApp and IOS and Andriod to assist customers with their transactions while chatting with your friends and business partners. The security with this platform has been that for every transaction, a One Time Password (OTP) is generated to the phone number that is registered on your account,” he explained, and added that the bank is working tirelessly to improve LEO’s services to the customers in the coming weeks.

United Bank for Africa Plc is a leading Pan-African financial institution, offering banking services to more than twenty-one million customers, across over 1,000 business offices and customer touch points, in 20 African countries. With presence in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France, UBA is connecting people and businesses across Africa through retail; commercial and corporate banking; innovative cross-border payments and remittances; trade finance and ancillary banking services.

 

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Heirs Holdings Acquires 45% of OML 17 from Shell, Total and ENI

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Heirs Holdings (“HH”), the leading African strategic investor, in partnership with affiliated company Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (“Transcorp”), Nigeria’s largest publicly listed conglomerate, announced today the unconditional acquisition of a 45% participating interest in Nigerian oil licence OML 17 and related assets, through TNOG Oil and Gas Limited (a related company of Heirs Holdings and Transcorp), from the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, Total E&P Nigeria Limited and ENI. In addition, TNOG Oil and Gas Limited will have sole operatorship of the asset.

 

The transaction is one of the largest oil and gas financings in Africa in more than a decade, with a financing component of US$1.1 billion, provided by a consortium of global and regional banks and investors. OML 17 has a current production capacity of 27,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day and, according to our estimates, 2P reserves of 1.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent, with an additional 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent resources of further exploration potential.

 

The investment demonstrates a further important advance in the execution of Heirs Holdings’ integrated energy strategy and the Group’s commitment to Africa’s development, through long term investments that create economic prosperity and social wealth. Heirs Holdings’ heritage and approach to business fundamentally underscores its commitment to inclusive development and shared prosperity with its host communities. Heirs Holdings is fully invested in the development of the Niger Delta region.

 

Heirs Holdings’ strategy of creating the leading integrated energy business in Africa is executed through a series of strategic portfolio holdings. Transcorp is one of the largest power producers in Nigeria, with 2,000 MW of installed capacity, through ownership of Transcorp Power Plant and the recent acquisition of Afam Power Plc and Afam Three Fast Power Limited. Transcorp closed the US$300 million Afam acquisitions in November 2020.  Transcorp supplies electricity to the Republic of Benin, as part of an emphasis on promoting regional integration and delivering robust power supply to catalyse development in Africa. Transcorp also operates OPL281, under a production sharing contract with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (“NNPC”). Similarly, Heirs Holdings’ subsidiary, Tenoil is the operator of OPL 2008, under a production sharing contract with NNPC. Tenoil also owns the Ata Marginal Field, which will commence production in Q2, 2021, with 3,500 barrels of oil per day.

 

Chairman of Heirs Holdings, Tony Elumelu stated: “We have a very clear vision: creating Africa’s first integrated energy multinational, a global quality business, uniquely focused on Africa and Africa’s energy needs. The acquisition of such a high-quality asset, with significant potential for further growth, is a strong statement of our confidence in Nigeria, the Nigerian oil and gas sector and a tribute to the extremely high-quality management team that we have assembled. As a Nigerian, and more particularly an indigene of the Niger Delta region, I understand well our responsibilities that come with stewardship of the asset, our engagement with communities and the strategic importance of the oil and gas sector in Nigeria.  We see significant benefits from integrating our production, with our ability to power Nigeria, through Transcorp, and deliver value across the energy value chain.”

 

Speaking further, he said “I would like to thank Shell, Total and ENI, for the professionalism of the process, the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, and the NNPC for the confidence they have placed in us.”

 

Speaking on the investment, the President/GCEO of Transcorp, Owen Omogiafo, said “This deal further demonstrates Transcorp’s integrated energy strategy and our determination to power Africa.”

 

Heirs Holdings was advised by Standard Chartered Plc, as Global Coordinator, and United Capital Plc, with a syndicate of lending institutions including Afreximbank, ABSA, Africa Finance Corporation, Union Bank of Nigeria, Hybrid Capital, and global asset management firm Amundi. The deal also involves Schlumberger as a technical partner, as well as the trading arm of Shell as an offtaker.

 

Heirs Holdings has created one of Africa’s largest, indigenous owned, oil and gas businesses, headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria and led by a board and management team with significant regional and global experience in production, exploration, and value creation in the resources sector. The HH Group is committed to the highest standards of safety, health, and community relations, together with best practice in governance and accountability.

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