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AfCFTA Will Benefit Africa, Ecobank Customers—Ayeyemi

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Ade Ayeyemi Ecobank

By Ahmed Rahma

The Group Chief Executive Officer of the Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), Mr Ade Ayeyemi, has declared that the banking group remains one of the key supporters of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).

The AfCFTA is a free trade area founded in 2018 but came into effect this January 1, 2021. The policy aims at creating a single African wide market for goods and services.

It is expected to pave the way for a rapid dismantling of impediments to cross-border trade leading to free movement of business, persons and investments across the continent, thus leading to the establishment of the Customs Union.

Mr Ayeyemi, who believes AfCFTA will be of great benefit to both the continent and the bank’s customers, affirmed that the pan-African banking group is facilitating smooth and instant payments as countries start the implementation of AfCFTA.

He said the bank has been able to affect international payment across the 33 countries where it operates on the continent through its Rapid Transfer platform.

He also emphasised that the bank’s platform can be scaled to accommodate other African countries under the AfCFTA based on their respective regulations.

According to him, “With this Pan-African exposure, the governments and our customers will re-evaluate their businesses to efficiently take charge of bigger opportunities.”

He said, “So, if you manufacture goods in Aba for the Nigerian market, you can now start thinking of how to expand your manufacturing capacity to be able to export across West Africa and also other African countries, not just looking at Nigeria as a market alone.

“And as you change your demand forecast, you need to now improve your capacity to produce and that will mean importing new machinery to expand your manufacturing base, develop bigger market and hire more people.”

He further added that, “Banks will work with other banks like Afrexim Bank to provide a swift payment platform as Africa will be the first market for most African products. For instance, there is no need for Nigeria to import rubber from Malaysia when rubber is being exported by Côte d’Ivoire.

“It is better within the African space. So, there is a whole range of businesses that we are having conversations with our customers, the governments and the African Union, because of our pan-African presence.”

Ahmed Rahma is a journalist with great interest in arts and craft. She is also a foodie who loves new ideas. She loves to travel and would love to visit other African countries someday. She is a sucker for historical movies and afrobeat.

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Banking

First Bank Reacts to Rumoured ‘Acquisition’ by Otedola

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First Bank Otedola

By Dipo Olowookere

One of the news items that has dominated the business space in the past few days is the rumoured takeover of FBN Holdings Plc, the parent company of First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) Limited, by Mr Femi Otedola, a businessman in the country.

It was reported that he has ‘acquired’ the lender by pumping about N30 billion into the shares of the company at the stock market, making him the single largest shareholder.

This was linked to the recent rise in the trading volume and value of FBN Holdings equities at the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited, which has spurred questions from various quarters.

But in a statement issued on Friday, the management of FBNH said it was not aware of the businessman emerging as its new shareholder, though it pointed out this could have happened as its shares are always available for purchase at the market by anybody.

In the notice signed by the company secretary, Seye Kosoko, the bank said once it receives notification from Mr Otedola, it will promptly inform the regulators about it as required.

“The attention of FBN Holdings has been drawn to media reports today, October 2021, purporting that a certain individual has acquired a significant shareholding interest in FBN Holdings, therefore making him the majority shareholder of the company.

“As a listed company, shares of FBN Holdings are publicly traded and sale and acquisition of shares are expected in the normal course of business. We operate in a regulated environment, which requires notification of significant shareholding by shareholders to the company, where shares are held in different vehicles, further to which the company will notify the regulators and the public as appropriate.

“The company is yet to receive any notification from the individual mentioned in the media report of such acquisition. FBN Holdings will always notify the appropriate agencies and authorities whenever it receives any notice of significant shareholdings by the shareholders and the company’s registrars,” the disclosure read.

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Banking

Femi Otedola Quietly Takes Over First Bank

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Femi Otedola First Bank FBN Holdings

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

There are reports that a billionaire businessman, Mr Femi Otedola, is coming back into the capital market on a big scale a few years after he offloaded his stake in Forte Oil, 75 per cent, which later became Ardova Plc under its new owners.

It is believed that business mogul has pounced on the crisis at FBN Holdings Plc, the parent company of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, which also recently had a board crisis, to take over the company.

According to reports, which is yet to be independently verified by Business Post, Mr Otedola, son of a late Governor of Lagos State, Sir Michael Otedola, is now the single majority shareholder of the first generation lender in Nigeria.

He is said to have acquired N30 billion worth of the company’s equities at the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited, where the firm is listed.

In recent times, there has been an upward movement in the share price of FBN Holdings at the stock market and this has raised many eyebrows as some investors were asking what was driving the hike.

Mr Otedola is not new to the boardroom and it is believed that his entry into the banking space would cause a disruption and make him rub shoulders with renowned bankers like Mr Jim Ovia of Zenith Bank Plc, Tony Elumelu of United Bank for Africa (UBA), amongst others.

Some months ago, many observers were shocked when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) sacked the boards of FBN Holdings and First Bank of Nigeria Limited and it was learnt that the financial institution has been on the life-support of the regulator.

The FBN Holdings board led by businessman, Mr Oba Otudeko was asked to leave and the CBN further ordered the bank to ensure that the debts owed by the directors, including Mr Otudeko, who sits on the board of Honeywell Flour Mills Plc, should be recovered.

A few months after this directive, shares of FBN Holdings and Honeywell have enjoyed a significant rise in value, causing people to ask questions.

If the latest information is correct, it would mean that Mr Otedola was likely the reason for the uptick witnessed in First Bank stocks at the exchange lately.

It means he will have a good representation on the board of the lender and turn its fortunes around.

First Bank is yet to officially inform the investing public about this development.

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Banking

Heritage Bank in Debt Crisis, Reps May Order CBN Takeover

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Heritage Bank CEO Ifie Sekibo

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The banking industry in Nigeria may be plunged into another crisis if urgent steps are not quickly taken to address the issue so as to douse the looming tension.

Business Post reports that a few years ago, precisely in 2018, depositors and shareholders of Skye Bank were in a panic mood after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) nationalised the lender to Polaris Bank Limited because of debts and the House of Representatives on Thursday raised an alarm that another financial institution, Heritage Bank, is allegedly swimming in huge debts.

The lower chamber of the National Assembly had invited the bank and its Managing Director, Mr Ifie Sekibo, to explain why the amount the company owes the federal government is more than its share capital, but he has failed to honour the request.

This action has infuriated the parliament, which has threatened to direct the CBN to take over the ownership of Heritage Bank if Mr Sekibo and the bank ignore their latest invite next Wednesday.

Mr Adejoro Adeogun, Chairman of the Adhoc Committee on Assessment and Status of All Recovered Loots, Moveable and immovable Assets from 2002 to 2020 by agencies of the federal government for Effective and Efficient Management and Utilisation, issued this threat at the resumed hearing of the committee yesterday.

“I need to send this message to Heritage Bank that we are not comedians here and we are not joking here. If Heritage Bank owes Nigeria more than its share capital, we will not hesitate to ask the National Assembly to write to CBN to take over Heritage Bank.

“They cannot be owing more than their share capital and feel too big to respond to invitations from the National Assembly. Clerk, you have to write them, give them till Wednesday next week. That is the last time we are going to give them,” an angry Mr Adeogun barked.

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