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Fitch Affirms Fidelity Bank at ‘B-‘, Gets Positive Reviews

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Fidelity Bank $500m Eurobond

By Dipo Olowookere

Nigerian medium-sized lender, Fidelity Bank Plc, has had its Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) rating affirmed by Fitch Ratings at ‘B-‘ with the outlook stable.

Fitch said in a statement that the bank’s Viability Rating (VR) has been also affirmed at ‘b-‘ and Support Rating at ‘5’, while its National Ratings were also confirmed.

Fidelity Bank is a financial institution with a market share of around 4%-5% of domestic loans and deposits. Its small franchise limits the size and scope of business it can undertake and the bank has developed a niche focus on selected corporate business sectors and relatively underbanked sectors, such as the financing of SMEs. Fidelity Bank operates solely in Nigeria.

Lending to SMEs in Nigeria requires more flexible underwriting standards to address their limitations and underwriting standards are adapted to meet the needs of the bank’s niche customer base.

Despite a focus on SMEs, Fidelity Bank’s impaired loans/total loans ratios (5.9% at end-September 2017) are broadly in line with the average for rated second-tier Nigerian banks (around 6.5%). Asset quality trends are favourable, reflecting loan restructuring and some recoveries in 2017. The sustainability of this trend will become clear over time.

Fidelity Bank’s earnings and profitability ratios are in line with the sector averages although performance metrics for second-tier banks vary considerably. There were some positive earnings developments in 2017.

Margins are improving, loan impairment charges are reducing as a percentage of pre-impairment operating profit and investments in technology are helping to improve cost/income ratios.

Fidelity Bank’s funding profile is fairly typical of a smaller Nigerian bank. Franchise limitations make deposit collection more difficult and Fidelity’s loans/deposit ratio hovers around 100%. Depositor concentrations are fairly high, with the top 10 deposits typically representing about 13% of total customer deposits. Low-cost demand and savings deposits represent around 75% of customer deposits, which is positive. Naira liquidity ratios are at levels that are marginally above the 30% regulatory minimum.

Access to foreign currency (FC) was particularly tight for Nigerian banks in 2016 but the bank did not delay any payments on its FC trade-related and bank obligations, even at the height of the liquidity squeeze.

The FC liquidity situation eased in Nigeria throughout 2017 and in October Fidelity Bank raised a senior five-year $400 million bond on the international capital markets. This has eased the bank’s FC liquidity position. Funds raised were partly used to repay $256 million of a $300 million Eurobond bond originally maturing in May 2018.

Loan loss cover ratios (68% at end-September 2017) are slightly lower than peer averages (75% – 80%).

Fidelity Bank meets minimum 15% capital ratios requirements, but the bank’s ability to withstand even moderate shocks may be limited considering below average loan-loss cover ratios, high single name concentrations and potential asset-quality deterioration.

Fidelity Bank’s National Long-Term Ratings reflect its creditworthiness relative to the country’s best credit and to peers operating in Nigeria.

Fidelity Bank’s senior unsecured bonds are rated in line with the bank’s IDRs. In our view, the likelihood of default on these notes reflects the likelihood of default of the bank. The Recovery Rating (RR) assigned to these bonds is ‘RR4’, indicting average recovery prospects.

Fitch believes that sovereign support to Nigerian banks cannot be relied on given Nigeria’s (B+/Negative) weak ability to provide support, particularly in FC. In addition, there are no clear messages from the authorities regarding their willingness to support the banking system. Therefore, the Support Rating Floor (SRF) of all Nigerian banks is ‘No Floor’ and all Support Ratings (SR) are ‘5’. This reflects our view that senior creditors cannot rely on receiving full and timely extraordinary support from the Nigerian sovereign if any of the banks become non-viable.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Banking

MFS Africa Expands into Nigeria With Baxi Acquisition

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Baxi

By Sodeinde Temidayo David

Nigerian fintech startup, Baxi, has been acquired by the Pan-African payments company, MFS Africa, giving way to its business expansion into Nigeria.

The acquisition of the Nigerian firm was sealed after MFS Africa signed an agreement with Capricorn Digital, Baxi’s parent business, for an undisclosed amount.

Founded in 2014, Baxi provides a cash-in or cash-out offering as well as value-added services like account opening, money transfer, bill payment and more, through its network of more than 90,000 agents.

These services are provided through the company’s retail network of agents and merchants in some of Nigeria’s most remote regions, through its BaxiBox POS, BaxiPay, Baxi MPoS Device, and BaxiRIMS products.

Recall that MFS Africa had earlier acquired East African payments management startup Beyonic, a Ugandan fintech startup and this time also, has plans to build Baxi into a key node on its digital payment network, allowing customers to make regional and global payments to and from Nigeria.

The deal, which is subject to approval from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), sees MFS Africa expand into Nigeria for the first time, having had a limited presence thus far due to the country’s small number of mobile wallets.

MFS Africa will also expand Baxi’s proposition for offline SMEs to select markets within MFS Africa’s footprint of 320 million mobile wallets across more than 35 African countries.

Speaking on the acquisition, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of  Capricorn, Mr Degbola Abudu, expressed that the future of the mobile payments landscape in Africa is a game of few, where consolidation is the way forward, and attempting to scale alone would require more capital expenditure and a longer time to execute.

“By teaming up with MFS Africa, and with the strong support of our local commercial banking partners, we can offer more value-added products and services, such as cross-border payments, to support Nigerian SMEs in their growth.”

“We believe that we’ve barely scratched the market’s potential. The deal brings many things that allow us to grow very quickly,” Mr Abudu noted.

MFS Africa intends to build Baxi into a key node on its digital payment network, allowing customers to make cross-border payments to and from Nigeria, similar to what it’s done with mobile money operators across Africa.

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Nigerian Digital Lender Brass Gets $1.7m to Support SMEs

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Brass

By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel

Provider of premium banking services for African Small/Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Brass, has raised the sum of $1.7 million in a funding round to strengthen its financial services rendered to local entrepreneurs, traders, and fast-growing businesses across the continent.

Investors who participated in the round included the co-founder of Flutterwave, Mr Olugbenga Agboola, co-founder of Paystack, acquired by Stripe, Mr Ezra Olubi, Hustle Fund, Acuity Ventures, Uncovered Fund, and Ventures Platform.

Brass’ past investors have included Olumide Soyombo of Voltron Capital, Leonard Stiegler, Fola Olatunji-David, Yemi Lawani, and two senior executives from major Nigerian banks.

With the fresh funding, the Nigerian digital bank is set to launch a number of new product categories, which will lead to expanding its credit market presence.

Even as the startup is looking at broadening its customer base, the new financial capacity will facilitate its plans to accelerate its expansion into other African countries such as South Africa and Kenya.

Explaining further on the significance of the fundraising, the Co-Founder and CEO of Brass, Mr Sola Akindolu, who is a former Head of Product at Kudi Bank, noted that the contributions made by these investors, together with their expertise, will not only play a vital role ahead of Brass’s expansion into South Africa and Kenya, but also in the future ambitions outside of the continent.

“The basic needs of Africa’s SMEs are just as significant and unique as those of the customers they serve each day and now more than ever, we need innovative and world-class financial services solutions that meet their expectations.

“These local businesses have supported our economies for decades, forming the backbone of Africa’s success to date, and now is the time to bet on them.”

“At Brass, we’ve made some great strides over the last year in tackling one of Africa’s most critically underserved customer bases but with an estimated $5.1tn credit gap globally, our work is far from over,” he added.

Expressing excitement over the investment, Mrs Elizabeth Yin, General Partner at Hustle Fund, one of the investors, said “We believe Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and fintech sector is witnessing an unprecedented shift, and Brass is at the forefront of that, supporting local businesses and professionals with banking technology to supercharge their growth. We are excited by their vision, and honoured to be joining them on their journey.”

Founded in July 2020, Brass offers full-stack, commercial-grade banking solutions to SMEs cutting across different business classes, allowing them to gain greater clarity and control over their money operations.

Brass online platform provides a wide range of business banking needs, including credit and payment services, payroll and expense management, Application Programming Interface (API) support, and other essential business services.

Having disbursed over $2 million in credit to business since inception, Brass’s recent solution which is ‘Brass Capital’ helps thousands of businesses scale up with its cash-flow financing design.

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Ecobank Staff, Families Raise Awareness for Mental Health

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Ecobank Day mental health

By Dipo Olowookere

On Saturday, October 23, staff and families of the pan African financial institution, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) across 33 countries of its operations on the continent will raise awareness for mental health.

This is a flagship annual event of the lender tagged Ecobank Day and in Nigeria, there would be impactful discussion sessions and mental health empowerment training programs to further raise awareness and help reduce stigma and discrimination in the country.

A statement issued by the Head of Marketing and Corporate Communication at Ecobank Nigeria, Mr Jide Sipe, disclosed that this year’s Ecobank Day is themed Mental Health – Time to Talk and Act! and it marks the start of the final year of the three-year campaign to raise awareness and help prevent Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Africa.

He further said a hybrid webinar will be hosted to “discuss mental disorders, raise awareness about them, and the care and support options available.”

“We will be encouraging people to talk about their feelings and suggest lifestyle behaviour changes which can also make a difference – like exercising regularly.

“There is often a lot of stigma around mental health. Those affected can face isolation, exclusion from work and family life, increased stress levels, negative addictive behaviours and substance abuse. No one should be made to feel ashamed because of a mental health issue. It can happen to anyone at any time,” he added.

It was gathered that some personalities invited for the programme include Dr Olusola Olowookere, Consultant Psychiatrist/Forensic Medical Examiner; Titilayo Medunoye, founder/CEO, Milky Express; Oluwakemi Akintoyese, Clinical Psychologist; Hadiza Blell-Olo, a humanitarian and artiste known as Di’Ja; Dr Tomilola Oyekunle, a registered psychologist and host of others.

Since the inaugural Ecobank Day in 2013, employees of the bank have supported a variety of causes and shown compassion for the welfare of various local communities.

Previous initiatives have focused on orphanages, cancer screening, education, maternal healthcare, safe water supply and malaria prevention.

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