In Q1 2020, Nigeria’s tier-1 banks –FBN Holdings Plc, United Bank for Africa Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Access Bank Plc, and Zenith Bank Plc – collectively paid the sum of N29.8 billion as company income tax to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and others.
The details: A breakdown of the tax payments, according to checks by Nairametrics Research, shows how the most profitable banks during the first quarter of the year also paid the most taxes.
For instance, Zenith Bank, which reported the largest profit of N50.1 billion in Q1 2020, also paid the most tax of N8.3 billion. This is followed by Guaranty Trust Bank Plc which paid total tax of N8.1 billion to the FIRS, thereby reporting a profit after of N50.1 billion.
Note that FBN Holdings Plc, which paid out N5.5 billion worth of company income tax in Q1 2020, is the holding company for First Bank of Nigeria Limited and a slew of other subsidiaries. What this means, therefore, is that the N5.5 billion tax encompasses all the group of companies under the Hold-Co.
See the embedded tweet below for a full glance of how much taxes the tier-1 banks paid during the period under review.
Tier 1 banks in Nigeria and tax expenses incurred in Q1 2020
Zenith bank – N8.3bn
GT bank – N8.1bn
First bank – N5.5bn
Access bank – N5.3bn
UBA – N2.6bn
— Nairametrics Research (@Nigeriandata) May 29, 2020
Why this matters: This level of tax compliance interests the FIRS for many reasons. For one, it is the tax agency’s main responsibility to generate revenue for the Federal Government through various forms of tax; specifically the company income tax. And it would be impossible to accomplish this without the compliance of companies such as those mentioned above.
In the meantime, there are strong indications that these tier-1 banks and others may enjoy tax exemptions in Q2 2020. This possible tax holiday (for tier-1 banks and others) is owing to the fact that they recently donated billions to facilitate the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
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As Nairametrics previously reported, the significant COVID-19 donations that were made by these banks (and other companies), could entitle them to some forms of tax exceptions. Even Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, noted this possibility during a recent interview.
Some Nigerian companies have often enjoyed tax holiday, an arrangement whereby the Federal Government either reduces or completely eliminates taxes for select companies. A Nigerian company can also get a tax credit, which basically has to do with the sum total that can be offset against such a company’s tax liability after it must have carried out a project on behalf of the government.
Zenith Bank GMD explains why its difficult for SMEs to get loans from banks
Onyeagwu has highlighted the regulatory challenges that SMEs are faced in trying to secure bank lending.
The Group Managing Director of Zenith Bank, Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu has discussed the impressive positive returns recorded this year by the bank. He also shared some insights on the relationship between commercial banks in Nigeria and Small/Medium Enterprise business owners.
Onyeagwu gave all these insights while speaking in an interview with Arise TV.
On why Nigerian banks charge high-interest loans, making it difficult for small business owners to get single-digit loans for their business, the Zenith Bank GMD explained that the operational costs and regulatory costs involved in running a bank usually sets the pace for every other thing. He listed examples of operational costs involved in running a single bank branch and how all that adds to the bottom line at the end of the day.
He also highlighted regulatory costs which are not particularly known by people outside the banking sector as one of the costs of doing business banks face. These two factors mainly contribute to the high-interest rates banks charge on loans.
“Our cost profile depicts the operating environment. Within the year we saw an upward review in fuel price, which accounted for the increase in our fuel cost. Again, when you are looking at cost of doing business, you also need to look in total, how businesses are being conducted. If I set up a branch today, I would need to provide my infrastructure, I need to provide power, water and in some cases, we even construct the road to provide access to the branch location. So, as a result of the poor state of infrastructure, you see that businesses would now have to contend with providing these resources to get their operations running. So, if we have more available and cheaper utility services and infrastructure to support businesses, of course, the cost would go down.
Then, looking at cost of doing business in banking, it goes beyond those operational costs. We also have things like regulatory cost. A bank like Zenith, given our size, the burden of regulatory cost on us is heavy. By regulatory cost here, I am referring to the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation premium and the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria fee. So, because of our size, if you look at the numbers, you will see that these regulatory costs account for a whopping 28 percent of our overhead. So, all of them come together to add to the cost of doing business for us as a banking institution in the country,” Onyeagwu said.
On why it is difficult to get single-digit loans from Nigerian banks, Onyeagwu highlighted 3 key reasons why single-digit loans are very difficult to obtain in Nigeria. He listed the following:
- Fiscal deficit
- Government Borrowing
- Money supply and demand
The Zenith GMD stated that it is nearly impossible to issue an interest rate by fiat. He stated that the interest rate will always be determined by market forces.
He said, “First of all, if you are looking at the interest rate, you have to look at it in terms of the theoretical framework and issues around money supply, demand for money, issues around government borrowing, and the fiscal deficits. So, when you put all that together, you will see that you cannot have a situation where you decree interest rate by fiat. Interest rates would always be set by the dynamics and realities in the market. In this case, if you are looking at the interest rate in Nigeria, you have to index it to the risk-free rate. The one-year risk-free rate in Nigeria is like 10 percent. So, it will be difficult to have a single-digit rate in Nigeria.”
Onyeagwu highlighted the various ways the Central Bank of Nigeria has intervened in a bid it provides single-digit loans to entrepreneurs in certain sectors. Sectors like cinema, movie, ICT, and fashion designing have been enjoying single-digit loans courtesy of various CBN initiatives.
He said, “We have intervention funds such as the Creative Industry Financing Initiative, where banks in the country provide long-term single-digit funding for entrepreneurs who are in cinema, movie, ICT, and fashion designing. We also have what is called the Agri-Business/Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme. It is also a pool of funds available for businesses in that space. You can as well access these loans. Apart from these, the CBN also has different intervention schemes such as the Anchor Borrowers Scheme, the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme, and others, and all these loans are single-digit and they provide long-term financing. The big problem we have is that when you see an SME approaching you for the loan, the SME may not have a track record; he walks up to you and tells you that he needs a single-digit loan and needs N20 million.
“But I can’t give you N20 million without looking where you are coming from. So, we cannot decree the interest rate by fiat. But the regulators have done good work by providing funding schemes and whoever is eligible would get such single-digit long-term loans once they meet the criteria. So, the funding is there, but the SMEs when they approach the banks don’t often meet the eligibility criteria.”
Jim Ovia is set to earn N9.58 billion in dividend for FY 2020
The highly revered banker is the single majority shareholder of Zenith Bank as he directly owns 3,546,199,395 units of the fast-rising bank stock.
The founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia is expected to earn a massive sum of N9.575 billion in dividend for the financial year ended December 2020
The highly revered banker is the single majority shareholder of Zenith Bank as he directly owns 3,546,199,395 units of the fast-rising bank stock out of the 31,396,493,787 ordinary shares available. This gives him an 11.29% direct interest in the Tier -1 bank.
It’s however important to note that such dividend is subject to a 10% withholding tax in Nigeria.
Recall that about a day ago, the Board of Directors of the bank in a statement released via the Nigerian Stock Exchange proposed a final dividend of N2.70, amounting to a total payout of N3.00 per share for the financial year 2020 (interim: N0.30).
This proposal reflects the past year’s robust performance and appears to signal that Zenith bank remains well-positioned to perform in the current financial year. However, there was a lower payout ratio at 40.9% compared to FY’19 (42.1%).
- Key earnings drivers to the financial year performance under review were a 90 basis points drop in the cost of funds to 2.1%, which propelled net interest income (+12.2% YoY) and a 3.8x jump in revaluation gains to N43.4 billion.
- These offset pressures from operating costs (the cost to income ratio rose 1.2ppts to 50.0%) and impairment charges (cost of risk rose 40basis points to 1.5%)
Described as the ‘Godfather of banking in Nigeria’ by Forbes Africa, Jim Ovia is quite popular for his business dexterity and leadership skills, especially in the banking sector.
His early interest in technology was the reason Zenith Bank became the first Nigerian company to have a functional website in 1995 and was able to smoothly migrate its operations from analog times to a digital era.
From a single branch in a residential building, Zenith Bank now has hundreds of branches all over Nigeria and several subsidiaries in other countries. The bank became a Public Limited Company in 2001 and was listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE), and later on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
On the 27th of April 2007, Zenith Bank Plc became the first Nigerian bank in 25 years to be licensed by the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA), giving rise to Zenith Bank UK Limited.
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