By Dipo Olowookere
There are unconfirmed reports that Access Bank may soon acquire struggling mid-tier financial institution, Diamond Bank Plc.
According to The Nation, talks are ongoing on how to finalise the acquisition, which will make Access Bank, a tier-1 lender, bigger and stronger.
However, to make the deal a reality, Managing Director of Diamond Bank, Mr Uzoma Dozie, must surrender his position, most likely by the first quarter of 2019, when the acquisition should be completed.
The Nation stated that both financial institutions have reached an agreement in broad terms on the acquisition, what is left is the valuation of assets, with a view to determining the level of compensation and systems’ integration.
It was learnt that the development leading to the impending acquisition was triggered by Diamond Bank directors who approached Access Bank for intervention in a bid to stave off a possible regulatory intervention that could lead to the withdrawal of the lender’s operating licence in the light of the bank’s depleting capital adequacy ratio on account of a huge Non Performing Loans (NPLs) portfolio put at over N150 billion.
Already, Access Bank directors have examined the proposal and after series of meetings and evaluations, accepted to acquire the entity. However, the agreement so far reached, it was understood, will not alter the name of Access Bank nor its management structure.
“It’s a complete acquisition and not a merger,” a source, who asked not to be identified, but who is familiar with the transaction, said, adding that one of the major considerations that swayed Access Bank’s directors in accepting the offer was the large branch network of the lender.
“It’s burgeoning NPLs, however, was of serious concern to Access Bank and almost becoming a disincentive, but it has been addressed,” the source added.
It was also gathered that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is well acquainted with the development. The regulator’s acquiescence to the deal was informed by the recent event that led to the liquidation of Skye Bank, and the apex bank not being disposed to following that route because of the huge cost implication that a bailout of Diamond Bank might require, encouraged the discussions, “and the regulator is pleased with the level of discussions so far.
“The CBN encouraged the ongoing arrangement, given the fate that befell the defunct Skye Bank a few months ago. The apex bank gave its consent and approval for the actualisation of the marriage,” the source further stressed.
Bloomberg reported that a major investor was in the process of injecting funds into Diamond Bank on condition that the CEO, Mr Uzoma Dozie, exits his position. The report attributed to the Chairman, Mr Oluseyi Bickersteth, has since been denied by the bank.
Diamond Bank is one of a number of smaller Nigerian lenders struggling to maintain a regulatory requirement for banks with international operations to have reserves of capital that cover at least 15 percent of outstanding loans. The company’s ratio stood at 16.3 percent at the end of September, the lender has said.
The bank cut its full-year profit forecast by more than half on Tuesday after income from operations declined. It now expects profit before tax to reach N3.8 billion ($10.4 million), down from a previous target of N8 billion.
The shares rose 2.5 percent on Wednesday, trading at N1.21 at the close in Lagos. The stock is down 19 percent this year, compared with a 12 percent fall on the NSE Banking 10 Index.
Diamond Bank, in a statement, said contrary to media articles, “the Board wish to clarify that the company has not received an offer from an investor to inject cash. Further to the Company’s announcement of 26 October 2018, Diamond Bank and its Board of Directors continue to review all strategic options on a regular basis.
“Diamond Bank would also like to clarify it enjoys the support of its major shareholders, including The Carlyle Group and Kunoch Holdings who are, as ever, working in cooperation with the Board and management as appropriate to ensure the successful operation of its business in Africa’s most dynamic banking market.
“Further to the announcement of 24 October 2018, Diamond Bank is in active discussions with regards to the appointment of new non-executive directors to the Board and, subject to CBN approval, these will be announced in due course.”
“Diamond Bank’s recent Third Quarter results published on October 26, 2018 show the business continues to execute its clearly articulated tech-led retail strategy despite headwinds in the Nigerian economy,” the bank stated.
Oyo Catholic Diocese Gets Licence to Operate Microfinance Bank
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Catholic Diocese of Oyo State has obtained a licence in principle from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to operate Ave Maria Microfinance Bank and provide financial services to about 1.5 million residents in the Iwajowa Local Government and the entire Oke Ogun area of the state.
The diocesan coordinator of the Justice, Development and Peace Movement (JDPM), Rev Fr. Gabriel Adeleke, said the financial institution will allow individuals and businesses to have access to affordable financial products and services that meet their needs in a responsible and sustainable way.
The non-existence of commercial banks in the Iwajowa Local Government had denied the people the right to pursue their dreams to the full because they were excluded from the formal financial sector. This lack of access to financial tools impacts the socioeconomic mobility of the population.
The Oyo Catholic Diocese explained that it came up with an idea to float a microfinance bank that can give people in the Oke Ogun area access to basic financial services such as formal bank accounts, insurance, transaction services, loans, and other permissible services.
Fr. Adeleke expressed delight with the reception of the Approval in Principle license from the central bank.
He disclosed that the proposed bank will bring a series of impactful interventions in the lives of the people in Iwajowa Local Government area and of the Oyo Diocese at large irrespective of religion, race, or gender.
According to him, the services the people will enjoy from the proposed bank include deposits including savings, time, target and demand from individuals, groups, and associations; except public sector deposits; provision of credit to its customers, including formal and informal self-help groups, individuals, and associations; as well as the promotion and monitoring of loan usage among its customers by providing ancillary capacity building in areas such as record keeping and small business management.
Others are the issuance of redeemable debentures to interested parties to raise funds from members of the public with the prior approval of the CBN; collection of money or proceeds of banking instruments on behalf of its customers including clearing of cheques through correspondent banks; agency services for the provision of mobile banking and micro-insurance services to its clients; and provision of payment services such as salary, gratuity, pension for employees of the various tiers of government.
It will also provide loan disbursement services for the delivery of the credit programme of government, agencies, groups, and individuals for poverty alleviation on a non-recourse basis.
Afreximbank, APPO to Establish African Energy Bank
By Adedapo Adesanya
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the establishment of a multi-billion dollar African energy bank has been signed between the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and the African Petroleum Producers Organization (APPO).
The institution will scale up private sector investment in African oil and gas projects and will not be a substitute for private investment but serve as a catalyst for Africa-directed investment.
As per terms of the MoU, the bank will provide critical financing for new and existing oil and gas projects, as well as energy developments across the entire value chain.
This will help strengthen the continent’s energy sector which has been further weakened by international oil company divestment and the shift in global investment trends.
The MoU was signed by Mr Rene Awambeng, Director & Global Head, Client Relations, Afreximbank, and Mr Omar Farouk, Secretary General of APPO, in the presence of Mr João Lourenço, President of the Republic of Angola, APPO Ministers and Mr NJ Ayuk, African Energy Chamber (AEC) Executive Chairman.
The proposed African Energy Bank will operate in the same way as the APPO-created Africa Energy Investment Corporation – a developmental financial institution created to channel resources towards the development of Africa’s energy sector.
“The African Energy Chamber has been pushing for the creation of an African Energy Bank, one that is African-based and Africa-focused, and I am proud to announce that the Afreximbank and APPO have taken the first steps towards its creation.
“The bank will be critical for Africa’s energy sector, serving as a catalyst – not a substitute – for private investment in African energy. This is a practical strategy for prosperity and a pragmatic vision that must be embraced by all who want to make energy poverty history and fight climate change.
“Why should our pension funds go to European banks who say they will not finance Africans and call us risky? We need to use that money to finance oil and gas,” Mr Ayuk said.
Based in Africa, the bank will operate as an independent entity, regulated and led by experienced professionals that know and understand Africa’s energy needs.
NowNow Unveils New Features to Boost Contactless Payments
By Adedapo Adesanya
A leading African fintech startup, NowNow Digital Systems Limited, has launched a first of its kind fully integrated near field communication (NFC) enabled wallet which allows complete contactless payments on the platform.
This new function provides fast, easy, and safe cashless payments for NowNow customers using android smartphones, automated teller machine (ATM) cards, and point of sale (POS) devices.
The most innovative feature of this technology turns smartphones into digital point of sale terminals for micro to small-sized businesses including individuals, agents, and merchants.
With the NFC integration on NowNow wallets, the company’s new Tap & Pay and SoftPOS features enable the acceptance and performance of seamless contactless transactions without the need for any additional hardware.
The Tap & Pay feature allows wallet to wallet transactions on NowNow, while the SoftPOS feature allows ATM card to wallet and wallet to POS transactions.
Speaking on the new NFC wallet integration, Mr Mahesh Nair, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, NowNow Digital Services, expressed excitement at the feat and affirmed that the new feature highlights NowNow’s commitment to enabling seamless financial services in Nigeria.
“We are excited to be the first fintech wallet in Nigeria to launch a fully integrated NFC wallet for our users that enables them to perform contactless payments. The Tap & Pay and SoftPOS solutions represent our dedication to providing seamless digital payments in Nigeria.
“As a leading fintech, it is important for us to provide services that promote financial inclusion. Today, our customers, agents, and merchants can make smooth contactless payments on our platform. Using the feature is easy with no hardware or maintenance required coupled with a simple onboarding process,” he said.
The new NowNow NFC enabled Tap & Pay and SoftPOS solutions provide customer-to-customer (C2C) and customer-to-business (C2B) services, including agent-to-customer offerings.
These options enable NowNow merchants and individuals to use payment solutions that are secure and easy to set up.
NowNow’s mission is to deliver best-in-class financial services having built an ecosystem for seamless digitized payments for customers.
The NFC integration on NowNow wallets will further enhance NowNow’s existing services for consumer banking, agency banking, and merchant payment, driving financial empowerment and inclusion for micro to small businesses and individuals alike.
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