Fitch Affirms Nigeria at ‘B+’ with Negative Outlook
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
One of the leading rating agencies in the world, Fitch Ratings, has affirmed Nigeria’s Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘B+’ with a Negative Outlook.
A statement issued yesterday by the firm explained that Nigeria’s ratings were supported by its large and diversified economy, significant oil reserves, its net external creditor position, low external debt service ratio and large domestic debt market.
According to Fitch, these were balanced against relatively low per capita GDP, an exceptionally narrow fiscal revenue base and a weak business environment.
It added that the Negative Outlook reflects the downside risks from rising government indebtedness, and the possibility of a reversal of recent improvements in foreign currency (FX) liquidity and a faltering of the still fragile economic recovery.
Fitch forecasts growth of 1.5% in 2017 and 2.6% in 2018, following Nigeria’s first contraction in 25 years in 2016. GDP growth continued to contract in 1Q17, but by less than in the previous four quarters.
The recovery will be driven mainly by increased FX availability to the non-oil economy and fiscal stimulus, as higher oil revenue and various funding initiatives have raised the government’s ability to execute on capital spending plans.
However, the FX market remains far from fully transparent, domestic liquidity has also become a constraint, and the growth forecast is subject to downside risks. Inflation remains high at 16.1% in July 2017, but Fitch projects it to decline to 11% in 2019.
Crude oil production rose to 1.8 million barrels per day (mbpd) in July 2017, from 1.5 mbpd in December 2016; the increase was driven by the lifting of force majeure at the Forcados export terminal and the completion of maintenance at both Forcados and the Bonga oil field.
Fitch has revised down its expectation of full-year average production to 1.8 mbpd, which is about equal to 2016 production.
Separately, Fitch notes that the imposition of an OPEC quota may cap Nigeria’s crude production at 1.8mbpd, which could limit the oil sector’s upside potential. However, as it excludes condensate production, the quota should not affect Nigeria’s near-term production potential.
In April 2017, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) introduced the Investors & Exporters (I&E) currency window and gradually introduced further measures to improve the liquidity of this instrument.
It also intervenes actively to support the currency while keeping domestic liquidity conditions tight.
In addition, higher oil prices and increased portfolio and FDI inflows have enabled the CBN to increase its provision of FX liquidity to the market. As a result, the parallel exchange rate began to converge towards the I&E rate, currently at around NGN360 per USD, and foreign currency liquidity shortages eased.
Most activity now occurs on the I&E window, and Fitch believes that the I&E rate should now be considered the relevant exchange rate.
Fitch forecasts the general government fiscal deficit to rise slightly to 4.5% of GDP in 2017 from 4.4% in 2016. Tax revenue in the first five months of 2017 underperformed budget expectations, as in 2015-16. The current Medium Term Expenditure Framework envisages a combined NGN3.5 trillion of capital expenditures in 2017 and 2018.
In 2016, with a budget year that ran to May 2017 the government executed approximately N1.2 trillion of the N1.6 trillion forecast in the 2016 budget. Improved financing will see a stronger execution of capital expenditure plans in 2017 and subsequent years. As oil production rises and the overall economy recovers, Fitch expects that higher revenues will drive a narrowing of the general government deficit to 3.4% in 2018.
Nigeria’s general government debt stock is low at 17% of GDP at end-2016, well below the ‘B’ median of 56% of GDP, and Fitch expects only a moderate increase to 20% of GDP at end-2017.
However, low revenues present a risk to public debt sustainability. General government debt to revenue, at 297% at end-2016, is already above the ‘B’ category median of 227% and Fitch forecasts it to increase to 325% in 2017. The ratio is even higher at the federal government level.
Nigeria’s current account surplus is expected to widen slightly to 1.0% of GDP in 2017, from 0.7% in 2016.
Fitch says it expects exports to increase by about 30% in 2017 and an additional 10% in 2018, as oil production and prices increase.
However, imports, which fell by over 30% in 2016, will also rise as dollar availability increases and the non-oil economy recovers.
The international reserves position has increased to USD30.8 billion as of end-July 2017 and it will be bolstered by expected external financing flows. Part of the reserves may be encumbered in forward contracts.
The economic contraction in 2016 and tight FX and naira liquidity weakened asset quality in the Nigerian banking sector. Non-performing loans rose to 12.8% at end-2016, up from 5.3% at end-2015. Rising impairment charges from bad loans have in turn led to capital adequacy ratios falling to 14.8% in 2016, from 16.1% at end-2015. The new FX window has aided FX liquidity for banks in 2017, but credit to the private sector (adjusted for FX valuation effects) is declining.
Nigeria’s ratings are constrained by weak governance indicators, as measured by the World Bank, as well as low human development and business environment indicators and per capita income.
Oando Bounces Back to Profitability, Posts N34.7bn Profit in 2021
By Dipo Olowookere
After swimming in troubled waters for years, Oando Plc, an indigenous oil company, has bounced back to profitability, recording a profit after tax of N34.7 billion in the 2021 fiscal year compared with the loss after tax of N140.7 billion posted in the 2020 accounting year.
This improvement in the net profit was buoyed by a higher operating profit and an increase in finance income to N44.1 billion from N9.3 billion in 2020.
It was observed that the operating profit rose to N78.7 billion in 2021 from an operating loss of N74.3 billion in the previous reporting year, primarily driven by higher revenue as well as a net reversal of asset impairments totalling N112.1 billion.
In the 2021 financial statements presented to the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited, the company said its revenue revved up by 51 per cent to N722.5 billion from the N477.1 billion achieved in the preceding year.
This was triggered by high product prices, with realized average crude oil price increasing by 105 per cent to $70.12 per barrel from $34.21 per barrel a year earlier.
Also, natural gas rose by 40 per cent to $9.96/boe from $7.13/boe, and NGL jumped by 27% to $6.98/boe from $5.48/boe.
In the year, Oando reported a 40 per cent shortfall in its upstream production to 26,775boe/day from 44,550boe/day, while the downstream achieved an 8 per cent rise in traded crude oil volumes of 17.4 million versus 16.1 million in FYE 2020, as traded refined petroleum products surged by 39 per cent to 962,370 MT from 694,653 MT.
“2021 was defined by contrasting themes for Nigerian oil producers, with buoyant oil prices tempered by an increasingly challenging local operating environment.
“Bullish oil prices throughout the year saw us record a 105 per cent increase in average realized oil sale price whilst a surge in militancy and sabotage across the Niger Delta resulted in a 40 per cent decline in average hydrocarbon production compared with 2020,” the chief executive of Oando, Mr Wale Tinubu, said.
Commenting further on the unaudited results, he said, “Despite the challenges, a strong revenue performance, coupled with the refund of a long-standing receivable, contributed to a net profit of N34.7 billion.”
“As we continue to drive the growth of our existing businesses whilst also exploring creative solutions towards curbing the incessant pipeline sabotage incidences that continue to plague our local industry, we are also committed to investing in climate-friendly and bankable energy solutions via Oando Clean Energy Limited, thus expanding our portfolio from oil and gas to include non-fossil energy solutions. We will continue to update our esteemed shareholders as progressive developments are made in the coming year,” Mr Tinubu added.
NGX CEO Lauds Geregu Power’s Significant Impact on Stock Market
By Dipo Olowookere
The chief executive of the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited, Mr Temi Popoola, has heaped praises on Geregu Power Plc for its positive impact on the local stock market.
Speaking on Tuesday at the closing gong ceremony to commemorate the first Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the organisation as a listed company on the exchange, Mr Popoola said the power-generating firm had boosted the value of the trading platform since its listing last year.
“It (Geregu Power) has also contributed significantly to the volume of trades done on the market since its listing,” he said, commending the board for instituting best practices in corporate governance and playing a leading role in the country’s power sector.
Since its listing on NGX, Geregu Power has added more than N800 billion in market capitalisation to the bourse as the market continues to price up its shares amid strong revenue generation and dividend yields.
Also, Mr Popoola pointed out that the company exhibited quality corporate governance, as “Geregu was one of the first set of listed companies to file their annual reports on the exchange.”
In his remarks, the Chairman of Geregu Power, Mr Femi Otedola, thanked the NGX for providing a platform for listed companies to source cheaper funds from the capital market.
“We promise to sustain our partnership for many years to come and reiterate our commitment to best practices of corporate governance,” the billionaire businessman said, as the chief executive of the power firm, Mr Akin Akinfemiwa, also restated the company’s dedication to positioning itself to be more valuable to shareholders and the business community at large.
On his part, the Chairman of NGX Group, Mr Umar Kwairanga, commended Mr Otedola for his longstanding contributions to the capital market, expressing optimism that the listing of Geregu Power as the first power-generating firm and its experience in the capital market would encourage other players in the sector to come and list on NGX.
Also, the chairman of NGX Limited, Mr Abubakar Mahmoud, represented by a Director at NGX, Mrs Angela Adebayo, said, “It is our hope that NGX and Geregu Power would continue to work together to sustain our partnership and consolidate our shared values for improved outcomes that will be beneficial to the market and the Nigerian economy.”
Zenith Bank Proposes N2.90 Dividend After Impressive Growth in Gross Earnings
By Dipo Olowookere
The board of Zenith Bank Plc has proposed the payment of N2.90 per share as a final dividend for the 2022 accounting year, bringing the total cash reward to shareholders for the year to N3.20 per share after it earlier paid 30 Kobo as an interim dividend.
The tier-1 bank, in its audited financial statements for 2022 released to the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited on Tuesday, announced the dividend payment amid an impressive double-digit growth of 24 per cent in gross earnings to N945.5 billion from the N765.6 billion reported in 2021 despite the persistent challenging macroeconomic environment and headwinds.
The financial results showed that the surge in gross earnings last year was driven by a 26 per cent year-on-year growth in interest income from N427.6 billion to N540.2 billion and a 23 per cent year-on-year growth in non-interest income from N309 billion to N381 billion.
Also, impairments increased in the year by 107 per cent to N124.2 billion from N59.9 billion, while interest expense rose by 63 per cent to N173.5 billion from N106.8 billion.
It was observed that the increase in impairments, which also resulted in an increase in the cost of risk to 3.3 per cent from 1.9 per cent, was attributed to the impact of Ghana’s sovereign debt restructuring programme. The growth in interest expense increased the cost of funds from 1.5 per cent in 2021 to 1.9 per cent in 2022 due to hikes in interest rates globally.
The continued elevated yield environment positively impacted the bank’s Net-Interest-Margin (NIM), which grew from 6.7 per cent to 7.2 per cent due to an effective repricing of interest-bearing assets.
Operating expenses grew by 17 per cent, though the inflation rate was at 21.91 per cent as of February 2023, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
In the year under consideration, the profit before tax recorded a marginal growth of 2 per cent to N284.7 billion from N280.4 billion due to an improvement in all the income lines.
A look at the balance sheet revealed that customer deposits increased last year by 39 per cent to N8.98 trillion from N6.47 trillion in the previous year. This growth in customer deposits came from all products and deposit segments (corporate and retail), thus consolidating the bank’s market leadership and indicating customers’ trust.
Total assets increased by 30 per cent from N9.45 trillion in 2021 to N12.29 trillion, mainly driven by growth in customer deposits. With the steady and continued recovery in economic activities, the Group prudently grew its gross loans by 20 per cent from N3.5 trillion in 2021 to N4.1 trillion in 2022, which increased the Non-Performing Loan (NPL) ratio modestly from 4.2 per cent to 4.3 per cent.
The capital adequacy ratio decreased from 21 per cent to 19 per cent, while the liquidity ratio improved from 71.2 per cent to 75 per cent, with both prudential ratios well above regulatory thresholds.
In 2023, Zenith Bank said it intends to expand its frontiers as it also reorganises into a holding company structure, adding new verticals to its businesses and growing in all its chosen markets, both locally and internationally.
In recognition of its track record of excellent performances, Zenith Bank was recognised as the Number One Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital, for the 13th consecutive year, in the 2022 Top 1000 World Banks Ranking published by The Banker Magazine; Bank of the Year (Nigeria) in The Banker’s Bank of the Year Awards 2020 and 2022; Best Bank in Nigeria, for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022, in the Global Finance World’s Best Banks Awards; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria 2021 and 2022 in the World Finance Banking Awards; Best Corporate Governance Bank, Nigeria in the World Finance Corporate Governance Awards 2022; Best in Corporate Governance’ Financial Services’ Africa, for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022, by the Ethical Boardroom; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria and Best Innovation In Retail Banking, Nigeria in the International Banker 2022 Banking Awards.
Also, the bank emerged as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria in the Banker Magazine Top 500 Banking Brands 2020 and 2021 and Retail Bank of the year for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022 at the BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards.
Similarly, Zenith Bank was named Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) at the ThisDay Awards 2020, Most Innovative Bank of the Year 2019 by Tribune Newspaper, Bank of the Year 2020 by Independent Newspaper, Bank of the Year 2021 by Champion Newspaper, Bank of the Year 2022 by New Telegraph Newspaper, and Most Responsible Organisation in Africa 2021 by SERAS Awards.
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