Some of the biggest commercial banks in Nigeria declared dividends of N36.7 billion in interim dividends in the first half of the year as the nation grapples with the economic consequences of Covid-19.
According to information gathered by Nairametrics Research, five of the six top banks in the country, all declared half-year dividends out of profits earned in the first half of the year. The banks reported a profit after tax of N348.7 billion in the first half of 2020 up from N344 billion the same period a year earlier.
Zenith Bank one of Nigeria’s largest banks proposed dividends of N9.4 billion out of profits of N103 billion the largest of the pack. GTB the second most profitable bank declared N8.8 billion out of its N94 billion profits. In total, dividend payouts of the 5 big banks totaled 10.5%. FBN Holding did not declare dividends.
Disconnect with the economy?
Contrary to expectations Nigerian banks have declared huge profits as the wider economy battle with arguably the worst economic crunch since independence. Globally bank profits have declined, mostly due to higher loan loss provisioning and expectation of high credit losses due to the impact of economic lockdowns on loan repayments.
In the US, six of its giant banks cut about $35 billion from their profits as they anticipate an increase in loan defaults. In South Africa banks have also cut profits as they expect a significant increase in loan losses. As banks around the world cut profits, so did dividend payouts halt. But Nigeria is a stark exception.
Help from the Apex Bank
In Nigeria, banks reportedly cut a deal with the Central Bank to defer taking impairment on some loans effectively allowing them rake in significantly higher profits for the year. Despite the deals cut with the CBN, the top 6 banks (including FBN Holdings, owners of First Bank) saw their loan losses more than double in the first half of the year compared to 2019.
Loan losses rose to N92 billion in the period ending June 2020 compared to N45.4 billion in the same period in 2019. FBN Holdings and Zenith Bank reported the most loans with N30.6 billion and N23.9 billion. Despite the losses, banks still reported higher profits on the back of a significant reduction in interest expenses, another benefit from CBN policies.
Since the central bank forced down interest rates on savings deposits banks have taken advantage, cushioning the drop in interest revenues emanating from a reduction in new loans. While gross interest income dropped, interest expenses dipped even further filtering into higher profits.
Banks have also recorded an uptick in deposit this year despite the increase in CRR debits.
- In a nutshell, cheaper deposits led to a boost in profits
- Banks also saw a boost in profits driven by a revaluation of the foreign currency positions another factor helped by the devaluation of the naira, another CBN monetary policy.
- The banks have had a breather this year and as they did in 2016 are fairing better than the economy. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics also buttresses this. As the economy suffered a 6.1% contraction, financial institutions grew by 28.41% in the second quarter of the year.
- The banking index on the Nigerian Stock Exchange is also up 3.5% month to date.
Optics: The spate of loan losses recorded so far this year, despite the deferment in provisioning of some loans portents a deeper problem that could come back to bite banks sooner rather than later.
- Critics of the banking sector operations will once again point to the disconnect between the real sector and the financial sector as yet another major example of banks profiting at the expense of the larger economy.
- By paying dividends banks are sending a message to the economy that all is well with their finances and do not require any policy assistance from the CBN.
- It also begs to wonder why banks cry foul whenever their accounts are debited with CRR sequesters.
Niger Insurance Plc gets shareholders nod to restructure business
Niger Insurance Plc has announced plans to restructure its insurance business into distinct but mutually dependent business entities.
Niger Insurance Plc has obtained shareholders’ approval to restructure its insurance business into general, life and business insurance, with each segment to be structured as a separate legal entity.
This is part of the resolutions passed at the 50th Annual General Meeting of Niger Insurance Plc., held on 20th of January, 2021 at Peninsula Hotel in Lekki, Lagos.
The decision to restructure the company is in a bid to make it more efficient and profitable to stakeholders, especially as efforts are geared towards overturning a loss of about 1,1723.2% Year-on-Year, earlier made by the company in its last reported financial statement, Q2, 2020, as reported by Nairametrics.
Other key decisions reached at the 50th AGM include;
- The re-appointment of Mr Ebi Enaholo and Mrs. Olufemi Owopetu as Directors of the company.
- Acceptance of the presented financial statement for the year ended December 31, 2019 and the report of the audit committee, directors and auditors.
- Directors were authorized to fix the remuneration of the auditors.
- Directors were authorized to appoint external auditors to replace retiring auditors of the company.
- The appointment of four individuals as members of the audit committee.
- A decision to restructure the company’s business capital was also reached.
In case you missed it: The shareholders of Niger Insurance Plc in the 49th Annual General Meeting approved the decision by the company’s board to raise additional capital to the tune of N15 billion, in a bid to meet the revised recapitalization targets for general and life insurance companies.
What you should know: The House of Representatives had in December 2020 directed NAICOM to suspend the mandatory deadline for the first phase of 50%-60% of the minimum paid-up share capital for insurance and reinsurance firms.
CBN says revised new cheque book to become fully operational from April 1, 2021
The CN has announced plans to discontinue the use of old cheque books with effect from March 31, 2021.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has in a circular to all Deposit Money Banks (DMBs), accredited Cheque Printers/Personalisers, and the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), stated that the revised cheque book will become fully operational from April 1, 2021.
The apex bank has directed all DMBs to enlighten their customers on the revised cheque book, introduced across all banks as full enforcement of its usage will commence on the stated date.
The disclosure is contained in a circular that was issued by the CBN and signed by its Director Banking Services, Mr Sam Okojere.
The CBN in the circular noted that the clarification became necessary as some stakeholders had been interpreting the circular differently from the intended purpose.
The CBN in the circular stated, ‘’Please refer to our circular dated 9th December, 2020, referenced BKS/DIR/CIR/GEN/02/042 on the above subject.
It has come to our notice that some stakeholders interpret the circular differently from the intended purpose. Consequently, it has become imperative for the CBN to issue the following clarifications;
- The parallel run, in which old and new cheques are allowed to co-exist, will end on 31st March 2021, and thus only new cheques would be allowed in the clearing system from 1st April 2021.
- Full enforcement of the second edition of the Nigeria Cheque Standard (NCS) and Nigeria Cheque Printers Accreditation Scheme (NICPAS) Version 2.0 will commence April 1, 2021 and the NCS/NICPAS 2.0. Sanction grid will be fully operational on April 1, 2021.
- All deposit money banks are (therefore) directed to actively enlighten their customers and ensure necessary provisions are put in place for a smooth migration to the New standard.
- The extension of full implementation date from Jan. 1 to April 1, 2021 is due to outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact it had on the Nigeria Cheque Standard (NCS) and Nigeria Cheque Printers Accreditation Scheme (NICPAS) Version. 2.
What you should know
- It can be recalled that in an earlier circular issued on the revised cheque book, the CBN had put the cut-off date for the parallel run of the old and new cheques at August 31, 2020.
- This was further extended to December 31, 2020, with only new cheques intended to be allowed in the clearing system from January 1, 2021, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the impact it had on the project.
- This further adjustment of the deadline gives room for more sensitization by the deposit money banks to their customers, taking into consideration the disruptions that have happened in the economy.
Interest rates will remain low until the end of H1 2021 – Meristem Securities
Meristem Securities has argued that interest rates will remain low until, at least, the end of H1 2021.
Meristem Securities has asserted that interest rates will remain low until, at least, the end of H1 2021.
This statement was made at the recently held webinar on Global Economy and Outlook, which the company themed: Bracing for a Different Future.
Although the company acknowledged that there is mounting pressure for upward movement in yields from several stakeholders, it appears the company concurs nothing concrete is in sight.
This line of reasoning seems to have influenced their decision to advise investors to move away from Treasury instruments.
What they are saying
Meristem advises that:
- “Buy and hold strategy investors seeking to generate above average returns should move away from risk free Treasury instruments and focus on investment grade commercial papers and bonds which satisfy investment objectives.”
- “Active traders with higher risk appetite are advised to focus on high-yield short duration instruments, which would be re-invested into a higher yield environment should rate reversals occur.”
The advice regarding shunning Treasury instruments appears to be in order, considering that treasury bill rate has been declining, with the latest figure — November 2020 — 0.03% as per the CBN monthly interest rate data.
Further checks from the Debt Management Office website, indicates that the latest figures for Eurobonds and Diaspora bond fall short of the fixed yield at issue for all the different categories of bonds in issue.
What you should know
Latest figures from the CBN’s monthly interest rate indicate that:
- Treasury bill rate has been on a steady decline for six months, down to 0.03% since the last rise (2.47%) in May 2020.
- Fixed deposit rates (one, three, six and twelve months) have also been declining – the latest figures for these indicate that in November 2020, one-month deposit rate was 1.92%, 2.9% for three months, 2.84% for six months, and 4.89% for 12 months.
- Compared with the corresponding period in 2019, the figures indicate that these rates fell by 75%, 66%, 71% and 49% respectively.