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Financial Services

Nigeria is not our biggest market, it’s our biggest opportunity – Ecobank

They also acknowledged that “Nigeria has a difficult macro environment”.

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Chairman of Ecobank

The Group CEO of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), Ade Ayeyemi, said Nigeria is not the pan-African bank’s biggest market. Instead, “Nigeria is our biggest opportunity,” he told business journalists during a virtual press conference that was held, yesterday, to introduce the company’s new Chairman, Alain Nkontchou.

Ayeyemi’s clarification was in response to a particularly interesting question about the challenges facing Ecobank Nigeria and the likely effects of said challenges on overall group performance. According to him, ETI’s Anglophone West Africa (AWA) region is the biggest market, based on the latest earnings report for Q1 2020.

A look at Ecobank’s challenges

Both the Group CEO and newly-appointed board Chairman acknowledged that ETI has been grappling with some challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic, for one, has been a major challenge facing the Pan-African bank. According to Mr Nkontchou, the pandemic has adversely affected some ETI customers, and by extension affected the bank.

He specifically noted that loan is a major challenge, as customers struggle to repay principal debts and interests. Note that this is currently a major issue across the Nigerian banking industry. A recent Nairametrics report talked about how 22 banks had to restructure as much as N7.8 trillion worth of loans just to prevent them from going bad.

Speaking further, the Chairman identified ETI’s Nigerian operation as another major challenge. According to him, “Nigeria has a difficult macro environment”. This is a situation that understandably affects many companies operating in the country, not just ETI.

READ ALSO: Ecobank’s unaudited 9 months’ financial report shows 4% profit growth 

Focus on Ecobank Nigeria, ETI’s ‘biggest opportunity’

Earlier during the press conference, Nkontchou had answered a question about ETI’s plan to address the declining performance of its Nigerian unit. He began by admitting that ETI “has faced some major issues in Nigeria that have affected our legacy assets.” He then spoke about measures that have so far been taken to address these challenges, including the fact that ETI had raised some debt capital and built a resolution vehicle to address the issue of bad loans.

In the meantime, ETI will continue to prioritise Nigeria, Nkontchou said. According to him, this is important, especially so recovery efforts are being made in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overcoming COVID-19 by partnering the African Union

“We see the challenges and we are dealing with them as an organisation. But we also see the advantages,” said Group CEO Ade Adeyemi, in response to questions about how ETI is generally coping with the negative impacts of the pandemic. He then focused on the opportunities presented by the pandemic, including ETI’s collaboration with the African Union to not only provide funding to African SMEs, but also to provide training opportunities whilst availing access to markets.

“SMEs are very important to the African continent. They are also among the reasons Ecobank Transnational was formed – to be able to contribute to Africans’ economic advancement. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have always been particular about SMEs,” Ayeyemi said.

READ ALSO: Forex turnover at NAFEX hit $1.6 billion since June 2020

What are ETI’s cost-cutting measures amid the pandemic?

During the conference, Nairametrics asked about the company’s cost-containment measures. We thought this was an important question, especially in view of the pandemic. The Group CEO agreed with this, and had enumerated the measures that have been adopted.

  • Remote working has enabled ETI to cut down on the costs of running their branches
  • The usual costs typically associated with work travels have significantly reduced
  • ETI approached some of their service providers seeking a reduction in the cost of service in view of the pandemic
  • Generally, the pan-African bank is making sure to avoid waste and minimise costs as much as it can.

Note that ETI had incurred operating expenses of N94.8 billion in Q1 2020, which is 2% more than N92.9 billion in Q1 2019. This is according to information obtained from its unaudited Q1 2020 earnings report.

How important is AfCFTA to ETI’s business?

According to Alain Nkontchou, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated believes that it is at the forefront of harnessing the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA). As such, the bank is quite excited about it.

READ ALSO: Ecobank taps into international capital market to raise $50 million Eurobonds

Jaiz bank

Nkontchou’s plan for ETI

Shortly before the press conference ended, Alain Nkontchou was asked to talk about his plans for Ecobank Transnational Incorporated. In response, he stated that his mission is to continue to make ETI a bank that Africans can trust, whilst contributing to Africa’s socio-economic development. It is also part of his mission to ensure that the bank continues to deliver on dividend payments. In the meantime, however, it is uncertain whether ETI will pay any dividend in 2020.

The backstory

On July 8, 2020, ETI announced the appointment of Alain Nkontchou as its new Chairman of the board of directors. As Nairametrics reported, he took over from Emmanuel Ikazoboh, whose six-year tenure as Chairman ended last month after he reached the retirement age of 70. Nkontchou is Cameroonian by nationality and has many years of banking experience.

Emmanuel is a professional writer and business journalist, with interests covering Banking & Finance, Mergers and Acquisitions, Corporate Profiles, Brand Communication, Fintech, and MSMEs.He initially joined Nairametrics as an all-round Business Analyst, but later began focusing on and covering the financial services sector. He has also held various leadership roles, including Senior Editor, QAQC Lead, and Deputy Managing Editor.Emmanuel holds an M.Sc in International Relations from the University of Ibadan, graduating with Distinction. He also graduated with a Second Class Honours (Upper Division) from the Department of Philosophy & Logic, University of Ibadan.If you have a scoop for him, you may contact him via his email- [email protected] You may also contact him through various social media platforms, preferably LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Business

Insurance companies paid N4 billion in claims after EndSARS protests – NIA

The NIA chief assured that some insurance operators were still working to settle genuine claims as most claims from insured businesses had been paid.

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The Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA) says Insurance companies paid N4 billion in claims to over 2000 businesses affected by the aftermath of the EndSARS protest after hoodlums took to the streets.

This was disclosed by Mr Ganiyu Musa, Chairman, NIA, on Thursday in Lagos.

The NIA chief assured that some Insurances operators were still working to settle genuine claims as most claims from insured businesses had been paid.

“The number of insured businesses that were affected at the last count was about 2,000 insured loss and the industry has settled N4 billion claims out of N4.5 billion in respect of the #EndSARS protests.

Once they are documented and completed, we have the commitment of our members that the claims will be paid timely,” he said.

He added that the association would continue ensuring members pay genuine claims to clients.

What you should know

Recall Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila disclosed that Lagos State will need about N1 trillion for the reconstruction and repair of the properties and infrastructure that was vandalized and destroyed by hoodlums.

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Business News

Nigerian payments company, Paystack expands to South Africa

Paystack’s south African expansion began with a six-month pilot phase that started after Stripe’s acquisition.

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Paystack acquired by Stripe for a reported $200 million in the biggest fintech acquisition in Nigeria's history

Paystack, the Nigerian payments company which powers businesses with its payment API has announced that it has expanded its operations to South Africa.

Founded in 2015 by Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi, Paystack helps businesses in Africa get paid by anyone, anywhere in the world. The company was actively present in Nigeria and Ghana before expanding to South Africa.

In 2018, Paystack raised an $8 million series A round led by Stripe. The funding was used for its Ghana expansion. Since expanding to Ghana, Paystack has grown and claims to power 50% of all online payments in Nigeria with around 60,000 customers, including small businesses, larger corporates, fintech, educational institutions, and online betting companies.

The company was later acquired by Stripe for $200M in 2020 for its African expansion. According to Tech Crunch, Paystack south African expansion began with a six-month pilot phase that likely started a month after Stripe’s acquisition. During this phase, the company has worked with different businesses and has grown a local team to handle on-the-ground operations.

What they are saying

Shola Akinlade, Paystack CEO said, “South Africa is one of the continent’s most important markets, and our launch here is a significant milestone in our mission to accelerate commerce across Africa. We’re excited to continue building the financial infrastructure that empowers ambitious businesses in Africa, helps them scale and connects them to global markets.”

Khadijah Abu, head of product expansion, added that “for many businesses in South Africa, we know that accepting payments online can be cumbersome. Our pilot in South Africa was hyper-focused on removing barriers to entry, eliminating tedious paperwork, providing world-class API documentation to developers, and making it a lot simpler for businesses to accept payments online.”

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