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Fitch Upgrades UBA to ‘B+’ with Stable Outlook

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Kennedy Uzoka UBA Shareholders

By Dipo Olowookere

Fitch Ratings has upgraded United Bank for Africa Plc’s (UBA) Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to ‘B+’ from ‘B’ with a stable outlook, a statement from the firm has said.

It was stated that UBA’s Viability Rating (VR) has also been upgraded to ‘b+’ from ‘b’, reflecting an improvement in the bank’s performance metrics and funding and liquidity profile, which the rating agency considers to be sustainable.

According to the statement, UBA’s strong capital ratios, increasingly diversified funding base and well managed liquidity mean that its risk profile is now more closely aligned with those of Zenith Bank and Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank), both rated ‘B+’.

Fitch said UBA’s IDRs are driven by its intrinsic creditworthiness, as defined by its VR and like all Nigerian banks, UBA’s VR is constrained by the operating environment in Nigeria (B+/Stable) where the fragile economic recovery restrains banks’ growth prospects and asset quality.

The VR reflects UBA’s position as one of Nigeria’s largest banks, as well as its sound financial metrics and reasonable capital buffers. It controls an overall market share in Nigeria of approximately 10% and its well-established franchise is a rating strength, it said.

Fitch noted that operating conditions are still difficult for banks and despite stronger oil prices in 2H18 supporting economic growth, credit demand is weak and banks face pressure on margins and capital.

UBA is also Nigeria’s most international bank, operating in 20 other sub-Saharan African countries. Its objective is to operate as a pan-African commercial bank.

“Our assessment is that geographic diversification is credit positive because it provides growth opportunities and can reduce exposure to Nigeria’s cyclical economic growth trends but it also adds complexity, especially considering the high risk environment associated with many sub-Saharan African countries. This also constrains the VR.

“International subsidiaries contributed 40% of group earnings in 1H18, but Nigerian assets dominate the group, representing around 70% of consolidated assets,” Fitch said.

Corporate lending dominates the loan book and large borrower concentrations are high, as is common in Nigeria. This exposes the group to potentially high losses in the event of default. The top 20 loans represented approximately 42% of total end-1H18 loans. Positively, exposure to the oil sector represented 20% of total loans, below the 30% sector average. Retail lending, representing 7% of total loans at end-1H18, is developing steadily. Impaired loans represented 7.2% of gross loans at end-1H18, slightly higher than the 5% average for its closest peers. Loan loss cover at approximately 95% is reasonable, but not outstanding, the statement said.

Fitch said UBA’s local currency funding profile is a rating strength. Its loans/deposits ratio (57% at end-1H18) is low compared with peers (69%). The deposit base is well diversified by single customer and retail deposits represent approximately one-third of customer deposits, which is higher than the average for rated peers.

UBA’s digital offerings continue to attract deposit inflows. Local currency liquidity ratios are comfortable and the issue of a $500 million senior medium-term bond on the international capital markets in June 2017 eased pressure on the group’s overall foreign currency liquidity position.

“UBA’s Fitch Core Capital/weighted risks ratio (24.9% at end-1H18) is among the highest in the sector. However, capital and leverage are not considered to be outstanding compared with Guaranty Trust Bank and Zenith Bank because UBA’s risk-weight density is lower and concentrations at UBA can be high, especially at the subsidiaries. This could lead to potential unexpected losses.

“UBA’s earnings and profitability trends show signs of improvement and have been stable for many years, which we view positively. Our expectation is that performance trends will continue to strengthen, based on growing contributions from international subsidiaries and increased stability in Nigeria.

“UBA’s National Ratings reflect its creditworthiness relative to Nigeria’s best credit and relative to peers operating in Nigeria,” the statement said.

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

Ecobank Assures Customers Sustained Excellent Service Delivery

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Ecobank Nigeria Jubril Mobolaji Lawal

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Customers of Ecobank Nigeria Limited have been assured of excellent service delivery as the bank celebrates the annual customer service week.

“For us as a bank, we are inspired by your confidence and support to us in numerous ways. We are proud to celebrate your trust in our products and services and use and reliance on them across our touch points. Indeed, your word-of-mouth recommendations of them make us delighted to serve you better,” the Managing Director of the company, Mr Bolaji Lawal, said in a statement issued by the lender.

The financial institution lauded its customers over their continued patronage and dedication to the brand, assuring that the bank will continue to meet and surpass their expectations with product offerings.

Mr Lawal said customers’ loyalty to the bank over the years has made the Pan African bank one of the most preferred financial institutions in the country.

He pointed out that the choice of this year’s theme, Celebrate Service particularly resonates with Ecobank’s philosophy that service is a game changer.

“It is the reason we are constantly investing in our technology and equipping our staff with the requisite skills and resources to provide you with the relevant solutions you need and cutting-edge banking experience,” he stressed.

Mr Lawal reaffirmed the bank’s commitment to implement their feedbacks, noting that “we will continue to be relentless in our efforts to make financial services readily and easily accessible to you.

“As your preferred financial partner, we are happy to listen to you and remain committed to tailoring our products and services to suit your lifestyle and power your aspirations. We will continue to evolve with you and innovate our products and services to make banking a more rewarding experience for you.”

Customer Service Week is an international celebration of the importance of customer service and of the people who serve and support customers daily. It is celebrated annually during the first full week of October.  This year’s celebration holds from October 3 to 7.

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Banking

Unity Bank, Lagos Food Bank Address Hunger, Malnutrition

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Unity Bank Lagos Food Bank

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Food items worth millions of Naira have been donated to Ogundimu Ilaje, a riverine community in the suburb of Lagos, by Unity Bank Plc and Lagos Food Bank.

No fewer than 150 cartons of food items tagged Unity Box of Hope were distributed to hundreds of households in the underserved community.

The gesture is a collaborative initiative to support and promote interventions addressing hunger and malnutrition in communities.

It is also part of the strategic Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSRs) of Unity Bank aimed at sustaining the improvement of health and social well-being of communities it operates.

The lender, in a statement, further said it supported the programme because its goals align with the Lagos Food Bank Initiative, a non-profit organisation committed to providing welfare programmes to indigent people.

The donation comes on the heels of the worsening economic situation in the country, especially with the soaring food inflation at 23.12 per cent as of August 2022, which has alleviated hunger in many households.

Addressing the beneficiaries at the venue of food distribution, Mr Hillary Oguebo, Unity Bank’s Head, Corporate Resources, said the bank, as an agric-focused financial institution, was fulfilling its core mandate in line with Bank’s drive for food security, adding that the Bank is pleased to donate the food items to the community to help ameliorate the impact of the rising cost of food on them.

“Unity Bank has a financing business model that is principally anchored, amongst others, on boosting agricultural production, and it is also useful for those who have not benefitted from the bank’s Agric financing package to receive direct food intervention as it is being done today.

“Due to a lot of factors, especially growing insecurity, food production has been impacted severely, leading to historical food inflation. That has left many households struggling and battling hunger. So, this is a thoughtful gesture that we hope to sustain to reach as many Nigerians who deserve this form of intervention at this critical period,” he stated.

With a score of 28.3, the Global Hunger Index ranks Nigeria 103rd out of 116 and classifies the country’s hunger level as serious. This is a result of the country’s growing food insecurity, which has risen to more than 80 per cent from less than 20 per cent about three decades ago.

Unity Bank has led some of the most important critical interventions in the agric sector in Nigeria in the recent past and boasts significant investment in the Agric sector over the past six years and a track record of financing smallholder farmers that spur food production through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Through a CSR initiative that feeds households in underserved communities, the Bank is redefining CSR through strategic interventions that align perfectly with its business model.

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Banking

FCCPC Records Decline in Complaints from Customers of Digital Loan Sharks

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customers of digital loan sharks

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) says it has recorded a significant reduction in the number of consumer complaints regarding illegal digital money lending activities.

Mr Babatunde Irukera, the Executive Vice Chairman of the commission, said this in a statement via the agency’s Twitter handle on Wednesday.

Mr Irukera attributed the reduction in complaints from customers of digital loan sharks to the enforcement embarked on by the FCCPC joint taskforce.

“I agree that some activities of digital money lending institutions have destroyed relationships, whether professional or personal, and that is why we are doing all we can.

“I will be the first person to agree that there is a problem out there.

“Messages are still coming, harassment is still coming, but frankly, we have been tracking this for a while,” he added.

The FCCPC boss said that the complaints were the lowest recorded in the last two years, following several enforcements embarked by the commission.

“This is the lowest it has been in two years. From March, when we started this enforcement, there has been a significant reduction.

“I will say that after our enforcement last month, we counted probably less than 25 per cent looking at the tracking of the complaints that came in.

“But 25 per cent is not it, we will keep doing what we are doing, even adding more,” Mr Irukera said.

He said that the task force would continue to set the guard rails and make the loan shark businesses difficult.

“Wherever we find their bank accounts, we lock it down, whatever applications they are using, we go to google, we take them down,’’ Mr Irukera said.

He said that in pursuant to the order of the commission, Google had taken down over 70 applications, and the FCCPC had locked out over 60 bank accounts.

The executive vice chairman said Flutterwave had also taken down a dozen applications.

Mr Irukera appealed to members of the public to send their complaints relating to illegal money lending activities to lenderstaskforce@fccpc.gov.ng.

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