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FY 2017: Union Bank Gross Earnings up by 26% as NPL Ratio Hits 19.8%



FY 2017: Union Bank Gross Earnings up by 26% as NPL Ratio Hits 19.8%

By Dipo Olowookere

Union Bank of Nigeria Plc on Thursday finally released its financial statements for the year ended December 2017.

In the results, the lender grew its gross earnings by 26 percent to N163.8 billion from N126.6 billion achieved in 2016.

During the period under review, the profit before tax marginally went down to N15.5 billion from N15.7 billion in 2016, while the profit after tax declined to N14.6 billion from N15.4 billion in the previous year.

However, the company’s interest income rose by 25 percent to N124.5 billion from N99.7 billion in 2016, driven by the impact of Naira devaluation on the foreign currency denominated loan book, government securities yields and loan book re-pricing.

Furthermore, the net interest income increased by 3 percent to N66.7 billion from N65 billion in 2016 with the interest expense growing by 67 percent to N57.9 billion from N34.7 billion in 2016. This was buoyed by the challenging interest rate environment, as the yield curve remains elevated.

In the results, the bank’s non-interest income went up by 31 percent to N39.3 billion from N29.9 billion in 2016, driven by a combination of improved fee and commission income, trading income and more effective debt recovery machine.

In the period under review, operating expenses (OPEX) increased by 5 percent to N65.1 billion from N62 billion in 2016 despite a double-digit inflationary environment and the impact of devaluation on IT investments.

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Also, the gross loans went up 5 percent to N560.7 billion from N535.8 billion as at December 2016, almost entirely due to the impact of Naira devaluation on the foreign currency denominated loan book.

Furthermore, customer deposits went up 22 percent to N802.4 billion from N658.4 billion as at December 2016, continuing its upward trajectory since 2016. The investments in customer-led products and the bank’s alternate channels, along with a strengthened brand, are delivering positive outcomes.

In the financial statements, the Non-Performing Loan (NPL) ratio increased to 19.8 percent from 6.9 percent in 2016, representing a 12.9 percent rise.

Managing Director of Union Bank, Mr Emeka Emuwa, commenting on the bank’s earnings, remained that, “Strengthening our capital base through the Rights Issue was key for the Bank in 2017. Notwithstanding the challenges a tightened economy presented, the rights issue was 20% oversubscribed.

“This overwhelming success is credited to strong shareholder and investor confidence in Union Bank’s immediate and longer-term plans. With sufficient capital buffers, we are now in pole position to execute our growth agenda from 2018 onwards.

“Operationally, we continued to focus on growing our retail customer base and optimising customer experience with simpler, smarter banking solutions.

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“We launched an upgraded suite of digital channels including UnionMobile, UnionOnline and our unique USSD banking code *826#, driving an increase in active subscribers above 100% on the mobile app and online banking platforms.

“Union Bank’s alternative banking platform remains the fastest growing in the industry. We continue to attract broad segments of new customers, adding 90% more new-to-bank customers in 2017 compared to 2016.

“Notwithstanding a fiercely competitive environment and reduced consumer purchasing power in the system, our new-to-bank customers and deepening share of wallet with existing customers have driven customer deposits up by 22% to N802 billion.

“Consequently, gross earnings are up by 26% to N164 billion. By the end of the year, our NPL Ratio stood at 19.8%. This reflects the residual effects of devaluation and a post-recession economy on our loan book, particularly in the oil and gas sector as well as a recent high court ruling in respect of a large real estate exposure, which we have appealed.

“While we have sufficient coverage and adequate capital buffers, we are aggressively focused on final resolution of key large exposures, which will have immediate positive impact on the NPL ratio, once resolved.

“In addition, we have strengthened our debt recovery teams with oversight from senior executives, and initiated necessary legal action against recalcitrant debtors. We are confident that this multi-pronged approach will bring the NPL ratio down steadily over the next few quarters.

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“For 2018, our focus is on leveraging our capital and investments in talent and technology to accelerate growth across all business segments and improve enterprise value for all our stakeholders.”

“Also commenting, Chief Financial Officer of Union Bank, Oyinkan Adewale, stated that, “We grew our revenues by 26% in 2017, and notwithstanding double-digit inflation and the impact of Naira devaluation on foreign currency denominated costs, Group Cost Income Ratio is down to 61.5% from 65.3% in 2016.

“As a result of our successful rights issue, which was oversubscribed, we ended the year with CAR at 17.8%- well above regulatory requirements.

“Our coverage ratio was adequate at 103%, while our debt recovery efforts yielded good results with an increase of over 350% to N6 billion in the year.

“We continue to tighten our credit risk management and loan monitoring processes while pursuing an aggressive strategy to continue to grow our low-cost deposit base.

We closed the year with the Regulatory Risk Reserve at N71 billion, which exceeds the expected impact of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) 9 adoption in 2018.”

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

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Unity Bank Launches Anti-fraud USSD Code for Customers



Unity Bank UnityCares

By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel

Unity Bank Plc has unveiled a new code on its USSD platform to help customers stem the risk of fraud in electronic banking.

The new anti-fraud USSD code, which is *7799*9*Phone Number#, will completely put customers in control of their bank accounts against any e-banking fraud, as it can be dialled to successfully block and protect an account from a third-party mobile device if fraud is suspected.

During the unveiling of the new USSD dial, the Directorate Head, E-Business, Retail & SME Banking, Mr Funwa Akinmade, said executing measures to safeguard its e-banking platforms with enhanced safety and security features was a top priority amidst the rising rate of cyber-crime victimization.

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He said: “With fraud concerns on major payment channels across Nigeria, every player in the financial services industry in Nigeria must think of a way to stay ahead of its game.”

“With the added USSD feature that allows customers to block their accounts using *7799*9*Phone Number# code, even from a third party device, we have given greater empowerment to customers to transact freely on our USSD platform.

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“With the USSD feature, being available to both smartphone and feature phone users, it means even the least digital-savvy customers of Unity Bank can effectively use the new anti-fraud code.”

He also revealed that since the code has been made available in Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba languages, it will cover the majority of customers across the country who are looking for safe banking.

In view of the latest banking industry fraud report by Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) which showed a 534 per cent increase in cyber fraud rate, and a total of N3.5 billion loss in the previous year, the lender said the new USSD dial was a strategic move to facilitate seamless and secure banking transaction within its e-banking channels.

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Customers can now block and protect access to their bank accounts in the case that fraud is suspected, then they can walk into any branch of Unity Bank to request reactivation.

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CBN Tracks Forex Sales at Commercial Banks



forex nigeria

By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel

The Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) is already tracking how commercial banks in the country are complying with the sale of foreign exchange to their customers.

Recall that last Tuesday, the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, announced that the apex bank will no longer sell FX to Bureaux De Change (BDC) operators and will also halt the issuance of licenses to them.

He disclosed this after the two-day Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting held in Abuja, maintaining that the BDCs had become a useful channel for illicit forex flows, especially at the unregulated segment of the FX market.

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In his words, “We are concerned that BDCs have allowed themselves to be used for graft.”

He said instead, the CBN will now begin to sell FX to commercial banks, which are required to set up teller points specifically for customers with genuine forex requests.

But several analysts expressed pessimism over the ability of deposit money banks (DMBs) to be faithful with the sale of FX to retail users.

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They claimed banks have already been involved in roundtripping, which the central bank accused the BDCs of doing.

However, to avoid this, the apex bank said it has put in place a monitoring mechanism that tracks forex sales at commercial banks, assuring the general public of seamless sale of the foreign currencies.

The CBN acting director in charge of the Corporate Communications Department, Mr Osita Nwanisobi, while briefing newsmen in Abuja, said commercial banks will always respond to the legitimate forex demands of customers.

He explained that lenders have demonstrated their commitment through their chief executive officers not to turn back on customers with legitimate forex requests.

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In effect, a circulated notice tracked by this newspaper showed that various commercial banks have swung into action and have set up dedicated teller points across their branches nationwide, encouraging customers who want to buy Personal Travel Allowance (PTA), Business Travel Allowance (BTA), and make every other qualifying FX transaction, to approach their branches nationwide to get them.

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Nigerian Lending Start-Up PayHippo Gets $125k Seed Fund




By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel

A Nigerian lending and business financing platform, Payhippo, has been accepted into Y Combinator’s Summer 2021 cohort, gaining access to a $125,000 seed fund and other networking and mentorship opportunities.

The one-year-old Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) co-founded by Mr Zach Bijesse (Cheif executive officer – CEO), Ms Chioma Okotcha (Cheif Operating Officer – COO), and Mr Uche Nnadi (Cheif Technology Officer – CTO) will be joining 167 startups across the globe to participate at the Y Combinator’s Summer 2021 batch.

The American seed funding accelerator, Y Combinator, offers seed funding for startups twice every year (winter and summer batch) and hosted their demo recently where they will invest $125,000 in selected startups, in exchange for 7 per cent equity.

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Speaking on the development, Payhippo’s COO, Ms Okotcha disclosed that when the news of their acceptance into the outfit came in, the startup felt a little sceptical about the precondition that the accelerator gets a 7 per cent stake in startups they invest in.

In her words, “We had mixed feelings at first because 7 per cent of your company is a lot to give up. We called up a few YC alumni from our market and got their input.”

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She, however, expressed optimism, revealing that joining the YC cohort will reinforce the startup’s credibility in the public eye and boost future collaboration.

“Ultimately, we went with Y Combinator because we saw how much we could learn from the YC partners and the overall network.

“We believe it’s already paying dividends both for operations as the brand name and global recognition of Y Combinator has brought interest from lending capital partners.

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“The YC brand name signals to the job market that working at Payhippo means people can contribute and do meaningful work.,” Ms Okotcha further said.

Payhippo is a lending and business financing platform with a drive to serve 40 million small and medium-sized business that are unable to gain access to the funds necessary to grow their business, by leveraging on automated underwriting and credit assessment tools to create more financially equities across Africa.

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