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Top 500 companies in Africa: Transcorp Makes Honored List

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By: Dan Premo

FOLLOWING a recent release of ratings by The Africa Report, Transnational Corporation of Nigeria (Transcorp) has been named among Africa’s top 500 companies. The Africa Report is a leading news magazine publication owned by Paris-based media group, Jeune Afrique.

The list is compiled annually with each company listed assessed based on total turnover as well as net profits. The release observed copiously that despite the recent economic challenges in the country, Transcorp has continued to focus on improving lives and transforming Nigeria as they join the list of Africa’s stellar performers.

Transcorp Plc. President/CEO, Emmanuel Nnorom, in a comment after the release said the recognition is most welcomed and has become proof that it is possible to be financially profitable when you focus on the best interest of the country and the people. Nnorom also noted that Transcorp has been recognized as one of Africa’s top 500 companies despite the fact that its investments are currently situated in Nigeria only.

A handful of notable Nigerian companies also appeared on this year’s list of Africa’s best including Dangote, and Nigeria Breweries.

Recall that Transcorp is a leading diversified conglomerate with focus on acquiring and managing strategic businesses that create long-term shareholder returns and socio-economic impact. Its business interests are in four strategic sectors: Power, Energy, Hospitality and Agriculture.

Incorporated on November 16, 2004 and quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Transcorp has a shareholder base of about 300,000 investors, the largest of which is Heirs Holdings Limited, a pan-African proprietary investment company. Transcorp’s other notable businesses include the award-winning Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja; Transcorp Hotels, Calabar; Transcorp Power Limited which acquired Ughelli Power Plc, owner of the Ughelli Power Plant and Transcorp Energy Limited, operator of OPL 281.

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BUSINESS

KIA MOTORS UNVEILS THE SONET

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– AN ALL-NEW SMART URBAN COMPACT SUV, MADE IN INDIA FOR THE WORLD

Kia Motors Corporation, one of the world’s largest automakers, revealed the Kia Sonet to the world today in a digital presentation. Manufactured at Kia’s state-of-the-art production facility at Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh, the Sonet is Kia’s all-new smart urban compact SUV, and the brand’s latest made-in-India global product after the Seltos. The new Sonet marks Kia Motors’ entry into the burgeoning compact SUV segment, and sets new benchmarks with its first-in-class features.

The world premiere of the production-ready model follows the global unveiling of the Sonet concept at the Delhi Auto Expo in February 2020. Sales of the new car will commence soon in India, with sales in many of Kia’s global markets due to follow.

“Kia Motors continues to be recognised globally through products which offer exquisite design and world-class quality, along with ‘The Power to Surprise’. Everything about the all-new Sonet is uniquely Kia and is sure to delight both drivers and passengers,” said Ho Sung Song, President and CEO at Kia Motors Corporation. “With its aggressive and modern design language, fun-to-drive dynamics, and Kia’s latest high-tech features, the Sonet puts an exclamation point on our ambition to make Kia the brand of choice, especially among millennial and Gen Z consumers. The Sonet fills a need in the growing SUV market, in India and further afield, and will attract a wider number of consumers to the Kia brand.”

“We are extremely excited to introduce the Sonet, which is made in India for the world. After the success of the Seltos and Carnival, we are confident that Kia will revolutionise yet another market segment in India with the Sonet by addressing the unmet needs and aspirations of customers,” said Kookhyun Shim, MD and CEO at Kia Motors India. “The Kia Sonet is designed and developed to deliver a best-in-class experience in quality, design, technology, features and drivability to attract a wide spectrum of customers across segments. The Sonet will be produced at our state-of-the-art Anantapur plant to Kia’s exacting global standards, and we are sure it will be received with enthusiasm by new customers and existing fans of the brand alike.”

The all-new Sonet incorporates Kia’s DNA of emotive styling along with a premium and youthful appeal to create a strong road presence. Displaying a dynamic stance in a confident, compact body, the Sonet showcases a range of styling attributes to make it stand apart on roads around the world. This includes a fresh interpretation of Kia’s signature ‘tiger-nose’ grille, flanked by ‘heart beat’ LED DRLs (daytime running lights), shaped like the electric pulse of a heart, with a stylish front skid plate beneath. Its sporty silhouette is enhanced by the unique design and structure of its C-pillar, matched with a wraparound rear-windscreen. The ‘heart beat’ LED tail lamps also adorn the rear.

Inside, the Sonet is designed around the driver, with a well laid-out, easy-to-use connected infotainment and cluster interface, and high quality materials all around. Despite compact exterior dimensions, the interior of the Sonet offers ample, ergonomic space for all passengers.

The Sonet will be offered with multiple powertrain options to suit virtually all requirements in this segment. A choice of two gasoline engines – a versatile Smartstream 1.2-liter four-cylinder and powerful 1.0 T-GDi (turbocharged gasoline direct injection) – and an efficient 1.5-liter CRDi  diesel engine are available with a choice of five transmissions. This includes five- and six-speed manuals, an intuitive seven-speed DCT six-speed automatic, and Kia’s revolutionary new six-speed Smartstream intelligent manual transmission (iMT). The latter is a technological breakthrough from Kia, offering fatigue-free driving thanks to the absence of a clutch pedal, yet the same driver control as a conventional manual transmission. For the first time in this segment, the Sonet also offers its 1.5-liter diesel engine with the six-speed automatic transmission.

The Sonet’s dynamics and suspension set-up have been tuned by Kia engineers to match its exuberant design and Kia’s sporty and youthful brand image, offering high driving pleasure for enthusiasts.

To suit the requirements of a wide array of customers, the Sonet will be offered in a dual trim concept. This includes the sporty GT-Line trim which enhances the Sonet’s racy appeal for enthusiasts via its multiple design and functional elements, both inside and out. GT-Line models offer an extra dash of sportiness to the Sonet and highlight its dynamic presence on the road.

What’s more, the Sonet is loaded with multiple segment-first features offering complete comfort, convenience, safety and optimum driving pleasure to customers. This includes:

  • Largest and best-in-class 10.25-inch (26.03 cm) HD touchscreen with navigation and live traffic
  • Smart Pure Air Purifier with virus protection
  • BOSE Premium seven-speaker audio with sub-woofer
  • Ventilated driver and front-passenger seats
  • LED Sound Mood Lighting
  • Remote engine start for automatic and manual transmission via Smart Key
  • Over-the-air (OTA) map updates
  • Multi-drive & traction modes and grip control for automatic models
  • Wireless smartphone charger with cooling function

The all-new Kia Sonet is testament to Kia’s focus on consumer insight-driven product innovation and orientation. It is targeted towards the young generation who are tech-savvy, aspirational and highly connected socially. The Sonet will be launched in India this festive season, in line with Kia Motors India’s promise of offering an all-new product every six to nine months.

Key highlights

The Sonet is all-new, developed and engineered from the ground-up jointly between Kia Motors India and Kia’s global R&D headquarters in South Korea. The production Sonet has been built following extensive market input from India, especially relating to its design, engine and transmission tuning and characteristics, suspension attributes, and the high-tech features it offers. The Sonet has been through extensive road tests in India, where Indian and South Korean engineers in Sonet prototypes covered over 100,000 kilometers across diverse terrain, driving situations, and climatic conditions. The outcome is a compact SUV designed to turn heads on the road, engineered to offer driving pleasure, built to world-leading quality standards, and offered with segment-busting convenience, comfort, safety and features.

Design

The youthful and energetic design of the Kia Sonet is the outcome of a collaborative effort between the Kia Design Center in Namyang, South Korea and the design team located in India. Kia’s entry into the compact SUV market was first seen by the world at the Delhi Auto Expo in February 2020, where the Sonet smart urban SUV concept was showcased. The brief for the production-ready model was to make it distinctive by design in this highly competitive segment, and present a sporty, youthful outlook. Inspired by modern styling trends, as well as traditional Indian heritage and culture, the Sonet’s exterior styling truly stands apart – not just in its category, but amongst SUVs in general.

Kia’s award-winning design strengths have come into play to make the Sonet every inch a Kia SUV, exemplifying the brand’s confident, young-at-heart attitude, a sporty, rebellious spirit, and a wild-by-design approach. The outcome is a striking SUV design and irresistible road presence that will turn heads in countries around the world.

At the front, the brand’s signature design trait – the Kia ‘tiger-nose’ grille – is reinterpreted to suit the Sonet’s personality. Flanked by ‘heart beat’ LED DRLs and stylish front skid plates below, the wild nature of the Sonet comes alive. Within the tiger-nose grille, with its classy chrome and diamond knurling pattern, is the distinctive grille mesh featuring a three-dimensional geometric design inspired by India’s iconic stepwells. The grille mesh design pays respects to India’s historic strengths in sophisticated mathematics, science and architecture.

The profile is imparted a strong, sporty character thanks to the shape of the hood and bumper, with a cowl point pushed back for an upright stance, a strongly raked A-pillar, and a round roofline that reflects styling. At the rear, ‘heart beat’ LED tail lamps and its unique reflector garnish give the Sonet even greater presence and impart a wider look. Additional highlights at the rear include a sporty dual muffler design and diffuser fin rear skid plate.

The Sonet’s lighting makes it stand out from everything else in this segment. Jewel-like LED headlamps frame the ‘face’ of the car, with ‘heart beat’ LED DRLs with integrated indicators and similar LED tail lamps make the Sonet’s wild personality come alive through its design. Riding on sharp-looking 16-inch crystal -cut alloys in a racy design, the overall impression of the Sonet is that of a strong, powerful and sporty silhouette with a dynamic stance that is hard to miss.

Furthermore, the Sonet is offered with up to eight monotone and three dual-tone exterior color options.

The Sonet will be offered in a dual trim concept which includes a sports-inspired GT-Line trim, a visible manifestation of Kia’s spirit and luxury appeal, for customers who want an extra dash of sportiness, luxury, safety and attitude with their Sonet.

Interior

Inside, the Sonet offers a sophisticated and lively cabin with a smooth, flowing dashboard to appeal to young-at-heart and always-connected consumers. Keeping the comfort of the driver and passengers in mind, the Sonet’s interior offers a modern, dynamic and bold outlook. Intelligent packaging has liberated plenty of leg room, head room and shoulder room for all passengers, and created a large trunk.

The stylish and clutter-free center console offers a hi-tech feel and easy access to many of the Sonet’s segment-busting features. The Sonet is trimmed in high-quality material throughout, with its dashboard displaying unique detailing. GT-Line models are finished with contrast red stitching on the steering wheel, seats and door armrest, while a D-cut steering wheel adds to its sporty appeal. Ventilated driver and front passenger seats are one-of-a-kind in this category, reinforcing Kia’s ‘Power to Surprise’ philosophy.

Taking center stage on the dashboard is the largest-in-segment 10.25-inch (26.03 cm) HD touchscreen with infotainment and navigation system – a display that confirms Kia’s premium positioning in the compact SUV segment. Additionally, the 4.2-inch (10.66 cm) instrument cluster presents important information to the driver in vivid color and clarity, such as turn-by-turn navigation instructions, Highline Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and drive mode and traction mode selection.

The Sonet aims to delight occupants inside. To create a concert-like ambience, the Sonet is the only vehicle in its category to offer audio performance from BOSE, with a premium seven-speaker system with sub-woofer. Other mood enhancers include the LED Sound Mood Lighting, introducing a level of personalisation unique to this segment, as well as a wireless smartphone charger with cooling function, exclusive to the Sonet.

Additionally, to further promote the safety of drivers and their loved ones, the Sonet is equipped with Kia’s Smart Pure Air Purifier with virus protection. This feature sets the Sonet apart in its segment and once again sets a new benchmark in its category. The new Smart Pure Air Purifier in Sonet has a two-level purification system. The pollutant-cleansing HEPA filter incorporates N29 which uses fiber made from nano-ionic bonding technology of copper sulphide, to remove pollutants and bacteria from the cabin. The second level of filtration is achieved through UVC LED, scientifically proven to kill bacteria and viruses. The system not only effectively cleans out pollutants from the cabin, but also kills bacteria and viruses as it cleans the air.

Powertrain and performance

In keeping with Kia’s motto of ‘The Power to Surprise’, the Sonet offers a surprisingly wide range of powertrain choices in its class. With a choice of three engines and five transmissions, there is an engine-transmission combination for virtually every customer need in this segment. Two petrol engines – a versatile Smartstream 1.2-liter four-cylinder and powerful 1.0 T-GDi – and an efficient 1.5-liter CRDi diesel engine are offered.

The Sonet comes with five transmission options: five- and six-speed manuals, an intuitive seven-speed DCT, six-speed automatic, and Kia’s revolutionary new six-speed Smartstream intelligent manual transmission. Additionally, automatic variants of the Sonet offer Multi-Drive and Traction Modes for added convenience, driver-confidence and safety.

The 1.5-liter diesel engine is offered with a six-speed manual, and, uniquely in in its segment, with a six-speed automatic transmission, an unmet need in this segment to-date. Customers can enjoy the long-legged cruising ability of a diesel engine with the comfort and convenience of an automatic transmission.

Smartstream six-speed iMT

The Sonet is equipped with this revolutionary gearbox, offering a balance between control and convenience. The six-speed Smartstream intelligent manual transmission will redefine the driving experience in India. The iMT is unique in the sense there is no clutch pedal, but there is a gear lever. The clutch is electronically actuated when the driver intends to change gears using the lever, re-engaging when the shift is complete. A sensor detects the movement of the gear lever and disengages the clutch smoothly. When the gears are engaged, the clutch re-engages and gear shift is completed.

The intention sensor is programmed not to activate with only small movements – for instance, if the driver knocks the shift lever. Instead, it sends a signal only when the gear lever has shifted further than a programmed threshold. Essentially, one can drive it like a manual transmission car without having to engage the clutch pedal. This system has been tested extensively on Indian roads in typical Indian driving conditions, and programmed to offer a seamless, smooth and enjoyable driving experience.

Highlights of the Smartstream six-speed iMT

  • Less driver fatigue: no need to use a clutch pedal, especially in stop-go traffic
  • Longer clutch life: electronically actuated, with no opportunity to ride the clutch
  • Smoother ride: clutch release is seamless, offering a smooth manual gear change

What’s more, the iMT has been carefully engineered to anticipate all driving conditions. For example, during a hill-start, an RPM control module prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards. The innovative gearbox has also been programmed not to stall when it sitting in a higher gear at low speeds. The system is intuitive and will feel familiar to drivers of all experience levels.

Ride and handling

In keeping with Kia brand’s sporty, bold and youthful brand persona, the Sonet’s driving characteristics have been tuned to provide an enjoyable experience behind the wheel for driving enthusiasts. The suspension set-up as well as feedback from the electrically-assisted power steering, have been honed to offer a sporty driving experience, providing plenty of feedback to the driver.

The ride and handling has been fine-tuned by Kia engineers at the brand’s Namyang R&D headquarters in Korea and at the brand’s Development Center at Anantapur, in Andhra Pradesh. Sonet prototypes have been driven and tested for over 1,00,000 kilometres on Indian roads, and across a variety of conditions, resulting in a driving character that offers a compliant ride quality and high comfort without compromising on its sporty spirit.

Safety

Customer Safety is an utmost priority for Kia Motors globally. More than two thirds of the Sonet’s body is made up of high strength and advanced high strength steel, creating a lightweight yet robust structure. Furthermore, Kia has ensured that every drive in the Sonet is as relaxing and safe as possible thanks to an array of safety measures, created in line with Kia’s own five pillars of safety: Active, Passive, Health, Security and Maintenance. Among the Sonet’s key safety features are:

  • Six airbags
  • ABS (anti-lock braking system) with EBD (electronic brake force distribution)
  • ESC (Electronic Stability Control), HAC (Hill-start Assist Control), VSM (Vehicle Stability Management) and BA (brake assist)
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Projector fog lamps
  • Highline tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS)
  • Auto headlamps
  • ISOFIX child-seat anchoring points
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BUSINESS

FIRSTBANK HOSTS FINTECH SUMMIT 4.0, PROMOTES THE GROWTH AND REINVENTION OF BANKING TECHNOLOGY IN NIGERIA 

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 First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s leading financial inclusion services provider, has announced that the 2020 edition of its annual FinTech Summit is scheduled to hold on Thursday, 6 August 2020 by 12.00 noon. The event will be virtually held via Zoom Meetings.

The 2020 edition of the summit, which is the fourth in its series is themed; “How Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence will Disrupt FinTech in Nigeria” and will be discussed by experts, key and leading players, policy influencers and regulatory officials in the Nigerian financial, banking and technological climate. To participate in the event, click the link https://www.firstbanknigeria.com/business-banking/smeconnect/fintech-summit/registration/ to register.

Chinedu Echeruo, founder of HopStop which was sold to Apple for $1bn will be leading the discussion as the Keynote speaker alongside other panelists; Musa Itopa Jimoh, Director, Payments System Management Department and Aminu Maida, Executive Director, Technology & Operations, Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS).

Representing FirstBank in the panel of discussants are Callistus Obetta, Group Executive, Technology & Services and Chuma Ezirim, Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products

Speaking on the event, Mr. Gbenga Shobo, Deputy Managing Director, First Bank of Nigeria Limited said; “at FirstBank, we have been at the forefront of employing technology in the delivery of financial services in the country exemplified by our various products and services such as FirstMobile, USSD Banking services, FirstMonie Wallet, FirstMonie Agent Banking, FirstAdvance loans provisions

 The 2020 edition of our FINTECH summit will build on the successes achieved in the last three editions. We welcome the panelists as we look forward to the shared knowledge which will be integral to deepening the continued growth of banking technology, especially its impact on the Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria and the continent at large.

 Technology continues to play a fundamental role in driving financial inclusion and strengthening the growth of SMEs that contribute significantly to the development of the country.

We encourage members of the public, players in the fintech and financial climate to register, as there is knowledge for everyone,” he concluded.

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Banking

FBN Holdings posts 56.65% growth in profit in 6 months

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By Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma

FBN Holdings Plc on Wednesday announced Profit After Tax (PAT) of N49.5 billion for the six months that ended June 30.

The PAT represented an increase 56.65 per cent when compared with N31.6 billion achieved in the corresponding period of 2019.

Profit Before Tax (PBT) grew by 14.36 per cent to N41.4 billion from N36.2 billion posted in the comparative period of 2019.

FBN Holdings unaudited results released by the company by the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) show that gross earnings stood at N296.4 billion from N280.3 billion in 2019, an increase of 5.74 per cent.

Also, its total assets stood at N7.1 trillion, an increase of 14.9 per cent against N6.2 trillion achieved in December 2019.

Its customer deposits rose to N4.4 trillion compared with N4. 0 trillion in December 2019.

Commenting on the results, Mr Urum Kalu Eke, FBN Holdings Group Managing Director, said they reconfirmed its consistent focus on enhanced shareholder value.

“The H1 (first half) 2020 financial results are impressive and reconfirm our consistent focus on enhanced shareholder value.

“Despite the difficult operating environment, the H1 results demonstrate our resilience and capacity to deliver on long-term ambitions.

“The growth in profit after tax for the period is a testament to the strength of our organisation to continually deliver exceptional services to our customers in these unprecedented times.

“We have been able to achieve this feat by leveraging our agent banking network, innovative e-banking capabilities, and operational efficiency, utilising technology,” said.

Eke said that FBN Holdings successfully divested from the underwriting (insurance) businesses to focus on banking operations.

“We are confident this will enhance greater value to our stakeholders and strengthen the group’s resolve to consolidate its leadership of the banking sector.

“Following the divestment, FBN Holdings injected Tier 1 capital into FirstBank, effectively increasing its capital adequacy ration to 16.5 per cent.

“This provides a comfortable buffer against regulatory requirements with the potential to support any emerging business opportunities.

“Looking ahead, we remain cautious, but we are confident that our business is fundamentally strong to withstand any future challenge toward enhanced performance,” he said.

Also commenting, Dr Adesola Adeduntan, FirstBank Chief Executive Officer, said the commercial banking group, during the period, increased its gross earnings and PBT.

“Over the period, the commercial banking group increased its year-on-year growth in gross earnings and PBT by 6.1 per cent and 9.2 per cent respectively, despite the economic shutdown and varying degrees of challenges in the operating environment.

“Notwithstanding, we have continued to provide services to our customers with minimal disruption in a safe environment, supported by seamless transactions through our increasing agent banking network and digital platforms (FirstMobile and USSD).

“Furthermore, continuous focus on operational efficiency remains a priority, as improvement in non-performing loan ratio has further been sustained.

“As the economy reopens gradually in Nigeria and other key markets, as in the rest of the world, we are adopting a pragmatic approach with optimism on propelling our performance for enhanced profitability through customer-led innovation and disciplined execution,” Adeduntan said.

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