AXA Mansard Insurance Plc announced today that its shareholders have approved the company’s plan to sell its pension management subsidiary (AXA Mansard Pensions Ltd) and some undisclosed real estate investments.
A statement made available to the Nigerian Stock Exchange said the shareholders reached the resolutions during the company’s Extra-Ordinary General Meeting which took place on Thursday, February 13th, 2020.
In view of this, therefore, the company’s directors were authorised to appoint advisors and other professionals whose services are necessary towards facilitating the divestment. The statement, which was signed by the Company Secretary, Mrs Omowunmi Mabel Adewusi, said in parts:
“That subject to regulatory approval; the Directors be and are hereby authorized to divest from the following investment assets in furtherance of the objectives of the Company: a. AXA Mansard Pensions Limited. b. Real Estate Investment(s).
“That subject to regulatory approval; the Directors be and are hereby authorized to appoint such advisers, professionals, and parties that they deem necessary, upon such terms and conditions that the Directors may deem appropriate with regard to the aforementioned divestments.”
Note that AXA Mansard Insurance Plc did not give any reason for the reason to divest from the said ventures. However, Nairametrics understands that insurance firms in the country are trying to shore up capital from various means possible, in a bid to meet and beat the recapitalisation deadline set by the National Insurance Commission, NAICOM.
NAICOM announced the new recapitalisation requirement in May 2019 and gave them thirteen months to comply. The recapitalisation programme requires life insurance firms to meet a minimum paid-up capital of N8.0 billion, up from N2.0 billion previously. In the same vein, general insurance companies are required to raise their minimum paid-up capital to N10.0 billion from N3.0 billion previously.
The regulatory capital for composite insurance was raised to N18.0 billion from N5.0 billion previously while reinsurance businesses are now required to have a minimum capital of N20.0 billion from a previous N10.0 billion.
AXA Mansard Insurance Plc’s latest earnings report for FY 2019 showed a 29% increase in gross premium written to N43.6 billion, up from N33.9 billion in FY 2018. The company’s profit after tax for the period grew by 17% to N2.9 billion during the period, compared to N2.5 billion in FY 2018.
CBN imposes fresh CRR debits on banks to the tune of N118 billion
These debits have inevitably tightened liquidity in the banking system and bankers are complaining.
On July 3rd, 2020, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) once again debited many banks in Nigeria in line with its Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) compliance requirement. This time around, about 14 banks were debited to the tune of N118 billion.
These banks are:
- Access Bank Plc: N3 billion
- Guaranty Trust Bank Plc: N15 billion
- First Bank of Nigeria Ltd: N12.4 billion
- Ecobank Nigeria: N7 billion
- Sterling Bank Plc: N5 billion
- Fidelity Bank Plc: N11 billion
- Union Bank of Nigeria Plc: N12.5 billion
- First City Monument Bank Ltd: N10 billion
- CitiBank Nigeria Ltd: N10.2 billion
- Stanbic IBTC Bank: N15 billion
- Zenith Bank Plc: N7 billion
- Wema Bank Plc: N3 billion
- Titan Trust Bank: N2.5 billion
- Rand Merchant Bank Nigeria Ltd: N4 billion
More details on these debits
These constant CRR debits, which typically herald the apex bank’s FX auctions as Nairametrics was made to understand, have served to significantly reduce liquidity in the system. An insider who informed Nairametrics about the latest debit said “the liquidity within the system is now very tight”. As a matter of fact, liquidity is now reportedly below N100 billion.
Apparently, the CBN is using these weekly CRR debits to mop up liquidity in the system. In other words, these debits help to prevent banks from coming to the FX auctions with lots of cash. Too much FX demands tend to put the apex bank under pressure.
Note that inasmuch as the CBN is trying hard to stabilise the FX markets, these constant debits have inevitably affected banks negatively by leaving them cash-strapped. Our source, who was quoted above, earlier complained about these ‘indiscriminate debits’ when he said:
“These are huge amounts that are leaving the banking sector. It’s a squeeze on the banks. A bank like First Bank, for instance, has about N1.4 trillion in CRR with the Central Bank. And there is Zenith Bank with equally as much as N1.5 trillion. These are monies that banks can potentially put in loans at 52% at 30%, or even put in money market instruments at maybe 10%. So, for a shareholder of these banks, this CRR debits are impairing the banks’ ability to increase their earnings because now are not able to use the funds that are legitimately theirs to create money for their shareholders. And the question is that under what framework is the Central Bank choosing to take people’s money?”
Banks’ stakeholders have also collectively complained
Meanwhile, bank stakeholders have also collectively complained about these incessant CRR debits by the Central Bank of Nigeria. As Nairametrics reported yesterday, the negative impacts of CBN’s constant CRR debits were among some of the issues raised by banks’ stakeholders during Standard Chartered Bank’s 2020 Africa Investor’s Conference.
It is important to point out that many banks in the country, including the likes of First Bank, now have billions of their customers’ debits sterilised for the sake of CRR compliance.
The cash reserve requirement is the minimum amount banks are expected to leave retained with the Central Bank of Nigeria from customer deposits. In January, the CRR was increased by 5% to 27.5% by the CBN Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) who explained that the decision was intended to address monetary-induced inflation whilst retaining the benefits from the CBN’s LDR policy.
CBN expands scope of regional banks in Nigeria, gives compliance timeframe
The aim of this directive is to expand the reach of the regional banks across the country, the CBN said.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has expanded the scope of regional banks in the country, by requiring them to open branches in at least one additional geopolitical zone outside of the existing geopolitical zones where their operating licenses cover.
A circular that was issued earlier this week by the apex bank said this new directive is in accordance with “section 8 (g) of the CBN Scope, Conditions & Minimum Standards for Commercial Banks Regulations no  2010 as revised on September 4, 2019.”
The new directive took effect on Friday, June 26, 2020. In other words, all the regional banks are expected to have become aware of this development since then. They now have a timeframe of six months to establish their presence in the geopolitical zones outside of where they currently operate.
It should be noted that prior to this time, regional banks in the country typically operated in at least two geopolitical zones of the federation. However, in line with the new expansion, the CBN shall now prescribe an additional geopolitical zone for each of these regional banks, thereby making the coverage area three geopolitical zones per regional bank.
Meanwhile, the CBN said the aim of this directive is to expand the reach of the regional banks across the country, whilst ultimately promoting financial inclusion. Note also that the new directive affects all regional banks, both the ones engaged in commercial banking and non-interest banking. Some part of the circular said:
“Effective the date of this circular, all banks with regional authorisation shall be required to operate from one additional geopolitical zone as may be prescribed for each institution by the CBN, without prejudice to the existing requirement of the minimum of two (2) geopolitical zones of the federation. The essence is to promote spread and balance of the regional banks across the country.
“The compliance timeline to establish operational footprint at the advised zone shall not exceed six (6) months from the issuance of the regulatory advice to each regional bank by the CBN.”
Banks’ stakeholders express 4 main concerns bothering the sector right now
Banks are more concerned about the arbitrary nature and lack of understanding of the CRR debits.
Stakeholders in the Nigerian banking sector have raised concerns over four main issues that are threatening their investments at the moment.
These concerns range from the perceived “unorthodox monetary policy” moves of the apex bank, to FX liquidity issues, and of course the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These concerns were raised by the representative of some of the country’s top banks (Zenith Bank Plc, FBN Holdings Plc, United Bank for Africa Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, and Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc) who recently attended Standard Chartered Bank’s 2020 Africa Investor’s Conference.
Focus on the issues raised
According to an executive summary of the conference which was made available to Nairametrics, banks’ stakeholders are especially worried about the following:
- The negative impacts of CBN’s constant CRR debits.
- The issue of naira’s liquidity management.
- They are also worried about FX liquidity (or the lack thereof), as well as the exchange rate unification at CBN’s different windows. When will the CBN resume dollar sales to foreign portfolio investors in the I&E window?
- Lastly, banks’ stakeholders are worried about COVID-19 and its impacts on earnings outlook, loan restructuring, and asset quality.
Part of the document containing the executive summary of the conference said:
“Banks are more concerned about the arbitrary nature and lack of understanding of the CRR debits as it makes it difficult for them to plan. Most are increasing steps to reduce balances with the CBN to limit debits. According to the CBN, CRR balances with the CBN currently stand at N10tn, 22% of sector assets and 50% of sector deposits. This is negative for NIMs, but funding costs have also declined, dampening the impact. Most of the banks have presented loans to the CBN for restructuring but are still engaging with clients. According to the CBN, loans presented by the sector for restructuring account for 32.9% of total loans, implying an overall weakness in sector asset quality, which we will likely not see in asset quality deterioration by FY20e given the regulatory forbearance.
“Sector NPL ratio currently stands at 6.6% vs. 11% in April 2019. Banks continue to maintain their position of following strict credit processes to drive credit growth, and not grow loans aggressively due to pressure from the loan-to-deposit ratio (LDR) minimum lending policy of the regulator.
“The improvement in oil prices has also reduced the concerns of asset quality deterioration in oil and gas exposure. Obligors in the sector have a breakeven cost price at the USD30/bbl level. Some banks expect further devaluation in the currency at the official window, given the depressed FX revenue outlook from
lower oil prices, but acknowledge the backward integration drive of government to improve corporates’ sourcing of raw materials locally to reduce pressure on FX due to imports.”
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Recall that there have been different reports and forecasts about the recent negative pressures on Nigerian banks and how their earnings/profitability might take a hit. And this is probably the first time these banks are acknowledging and speaking up about these changes. It is unclear, at this point, what the CBN might do to remedy some of the concerns raised.
In the meantime, you may download the full report containing the key takeaways from the conference by clicking here.