RENCAP: A local newspaper reported today that CBN released a circular barring banks with significant NPL ratios from paying dividends. While a circular was indeed released recently, unlike what the news article suggests, this ban is not a new development. It was originally implemented on 8 October, 2014 in a circular which stipulated that a bank’s ability to pay dividend is based on;
- NPL ratio ; where banks with NPL ratios above 10% shall not be allowed to pay dividend.
- Capital position ; where banks which do not meet the minimum capital adequacy ratio shall not be allowed to pay dividend.
- Credit risk ratings (CRR) ; which are not typically disclosed by the banks.
The revised circular, however, includes an additional provision; banks that have capital adequacy ratios (CAR) of at least 3% above the minimum requirement, CRR of “Low” and NPL ratio of more than 5% but less than 10%, shall have a dividend pay-out ratio of not more than 75% of profit after tax. These restrictions only apply to the banking entity, and not the group ;
FBNH for instance paid out ₦0.20k per share (51% dividend pay-out) in FY16, despite an NPL ratio of 24.4%. This was paid out of the other non-banking subsidiaries within the group.
Based on our conversations with management, we think that a 75% pay -out ratio is highly unlikely. We note that the highest dividend pay-out ratio for the banks in our coverage universe in FY17E is c. 50% (GTBank and Zenith). We expect the banks to take a conservative stance on dividend pay-out in light of IFRS 9 capital requirements, which could reduce CAR by as much as 150bpts in a worst case scenario.
Zenith, UBA and Fidelity offer attractive dividend yields of 7-8% based on our FY17 estimates while GTBank and Access stand closer to 5-6%. Dividends will be declared with the release of FY17 numbers, which we expect in about two weeks.