By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Bad debts worth N400 billion have been sold by the management of Unity Bank in preparation of injection of fresh capital into the financial institution by new investors having talks with the company.
Few days ago, the board of Unity Bank confirmed that it was having discussions with new potential investors interested in pumping money into the bank, which has struggled for survival lately.
In the statement issued by the lender, the ongoing talks would soon be completed and the shareholders would be informed details of the new deal to be struck with the unnamed “prospective investors.”
According to a report by Bloomberg, Unity Bank decided to clean up its balance sheet to lure the new investors.
It was disclosed that the disposal to Frontier Capital Alternative Asset Limited of the toxic assets cut the ratio of non-performing loans to near zero from almost 50 percent and helped to shore up Unity Bank’s liquidity.
Quoting the Chief Financial Officer of Unity Bank, Mr Ebenezer Kolawole, the deal helped Unity Bank to sign an agreement with a foreign equity investor that it hopes to finalise during the first half of 2019.
Unity Bank is trying to raise about N270 billion to recapitalise its operations after missing a regulatory deadline last year to bolster the amount of cash it sets aside as a buffer against potential shocks.
Formed 12 years ago out of the merger of nine lenders, Unity Bank is only beginning to recover from a 2016 contraction in the nation’s economy that caused bad debts to soar and is making “massive” progress from six months ago, according to the CFO.
“We’re on the verge of completing our capitalisation. We’re raising substantial capital that will block the hole in the bank,” Mr Kolawole said.
Frontier Capital Alternative Asset, a unit of Lagos-based advisory and investment firm, Frontier Capital Group, acquired the bad loans after making an initial payment of N6.4 billion to Unity Bank, Mr Kolawole said.
It recovered N5 billion in the first half of this year, while both companies have an agreement to share the recovered funds over the next five years, he said, declining to give more details.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) also appointed Unity Bank to administer an N80 billion credit facility for more than 300,000 rice farmers, Kolawole said.
As part of the programme, Unity Bank obtains funding from the central bank at an interest rate of two per cent and then lends this on to farmers at nine per cent, helping to boost its income, he added.
Sterling Bank Offers Optometrists Loans at Competitive Interest Rates
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed to automate operations, enhance capacity and provide loans at competitive interest rates for optometrists has been signed by Sterling Bank Plc and the Nigerian Optometrist Association (NOA).
Under the deal, members of the association will be able to borrow from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) intervention for the health sector at 5 per cent as well as obtain template credit from the bank within 48 hours at a competitive interest rate of 20 per cent, which is below the prevailing rate in the banking industry.
Business Post gathered that Sterling Bank has earmarked N10 billion for the entire health care sector in the country and would accommodate any level of funding optometrists may require.
The Group Head of Health Finance at Sterling Bank, Mrs Ibironke Akinmade, while speaking at the signing ceremony in Lagos, explained that the initiative is part of the lender’s vision to be the leading bank for businesses in the health sector.
The Head of Health Finance said the rationale behind the partnership with NOA is to further position Sterling Bank as the bank of choice for businesses in the health sector, adding that this means more business collaboration and partnership with stakeholders in the health space.
“We have adopted a community approach in engagement with stakeholders in this sector. This will not only give us leverage to develop tailor-made propositions for the community, but it also creates an inroad for engagement of their members through a cluster approach,” she said.
Mrs Akinmade said the bank recently engaged the NOA in a bid to scale on its offerings to the health sector, which includes access to finance (template credit), and access to digitalisation (payment platforms and Electronic Medical Records) as well as advisory services, among others.
Also speaking, Dr Obinna Awiaka, President of NOA, said the association wants a bank that would help its members to grow and discovered that Sterling is the only bank that has a passion for the healthcare sector.
He said the relationship between members of his association and the bank will build the economy because once the healthcare industry is built the economy will also be built.
Dr Awiaka said the NOA is satisfied with the relationship with Sterling Bank because in no distant time the bank, in conjunction with healthcare professionals, will help to develop the sector, which will translate to a better future for the country.
He said the development will make Nigerian professionals that are leaving the country in droves return to the country to practice and this will reduce medical tourism among the country’s leaders, thanking Sterling Bank for coming on board and taking the bull by the horn to support the healthcare industry.
The NOA was established in 1968 and is the prime umbrella association representing over 5,000 doctors of optometry across the 36 states of the country and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, as well as all other optometric interest groups in Nigeria.
Since 2018, Sterling Bank has concentrated investment in five sectors of the economy under its HEART strategy in a bid to make an impact on the country’s economic development. The five sectors in HEART’s strategy include health, education, agriculture, renewable energy and transportation.
MTN Assures Nigerians Affordable Financial Services as MoMo PSB Begins Operations
By Adedapo Adesanya
MTN Nigerian Communications Plc has announced that its fintech subsidiary, MoMo PSB Limited, has formally commenced commercial operations in the country.
In a notice on Thursday at the Nigerian Exchange, MTN said the development followed a successful pilot initiated on May 16, 2022, in commemoration of the launch of its GSM operations on May 16, 2001, and listing by introduction on the Nigerian Exchange Limited on May 16, 2019.
“Indeed, this is a key milestone in delivering the company’s Ambition 2025 strategic priorities,” the notice said.
The company said with an expansive agent network of over 166,000 active agents and digitized partnership infrastructure, MoMo PSB “is poised to enable millions of unbanked and under-banked Nigerians to access a wide range of financial service products.
“MoMo PSB will continue to scale its agent network in order to reach Nigerians across the country and remove friction from everyday payment by digitizing cash payment.
“By dialling *671# on any network, customers can open a MoMo wallet, send money to any phone number in the country and pay their bills.
“In addition, MoMo wallets in the future will enable Nigerians in the Diaspora to send money to any phone number in the country, an important feature given Nigeria’s ranking as the destination for the highest remittance inflow in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
The CEO of MTN Nigeria, Mr Karl Toriola, appreciated the support and guidance of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through the process and noted that this will help the country’s financial inclusion.
“This is an important milestone for MTN Nigeria in our mission to support the government’s drive towards financial inclusion in Nigeria. Not just for those in urban centres and markets, but also people in the rural and remote areas of the country who remain excluded from the financial system,” he stated.
On his part, MoMo PSB CEO, Mr Usoro Usoro said: “Providing easy to use, accessible and affordable financial services to all Nigerians is essential to executing the CBN’s financial inclusion strategy and digital inclusion agenda of the Minister of communications and Digital Economy.
“We look forward to playing our part and are excited about the opportunities to partner with relevant institutions across various sectors to co-create and expand access nationwide.”
This is coming on the same day that MTN’s rival, Airtel announced its subsidiary, SmartCash Payment Service Bank Limited (SmartCash PSB), has commenced operations in Nigeria.
Airtel Commences SmartCash Payment Operations in Nigeria
By Adedapo Adesanya
Airtel Africa has announced that its subsidiary, SmartCash Payment Service Bank Limited (SmartCash PSB), has commenced operations in Nigeria.
Services will initially be available at selected retail touchpoints, and operations will be expanded gradually across the country over the next few months.
Speaking on the development, Mr Segun Ogunsanya, Airtel Africa chief executive officer, said, “I am very excited to announce our commencement of operations for financial services in Nigeria through SmartCash PSB. This is the beginning of our journey to revolutionise the financial services landscape in the country.
“To help further digitise the economy, and most importantly to help bank the unbanked by reaching the millions of Nigerians who do not currently have access to financial services by delivering current and savings accounts, payment and remittance services, debit and prepayment cards and more sophisticated services.”
This is coming less than one month after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) granted the company the license to operate mobile money services in the country.
The licence will enable the telco to expand its digital financial products and reach the millions of Nigerians that do not currently have access to traditional financial services.
It will also be able to augment plans by the Nigerian Government, the CBN, and traditional financial institutions to further deepen financial inclusion in the country for the benefit of all citizens and the Nigerian economy.
Airtel Africa is a leading provider of telecommunications and mobile money services with a presence in 14 countries across Africa.
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