By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Managing Director and CEO of Heritage Bank Plc, Mr Ifie Sekibo, has disclosed that the lender will focus in supporting the agricultural space through financing farmers to purchase modern technology.
The bank chief noted that the funding will bring about transformative development in the sector, which has been getting government’s attention lately.
Mr Sekibo, in a statement released on Wednesday by the Group Head of Corporate Communications at Heritage Bank, Mr Fela Ibidapo, reiterated the financial institution’s commitment to further deepen the drive to support agribusiness value chain in order to fast track food security and sufficiency in the country.
He said the bank will continue to make farming profitable to stakeholders and attractive to the youth by boosting the agric base of the nation so as to support food sufficiency.
Mr Sekibo stated that Heritage Bank will support the drive for cash crop commodities that would boost Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings, which the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has always been cautious given the dangers the continuous reliance on imported food items pose to its efforts to create jobs as well as develop and diversify the economy.
Also, the bank’s Group Head, Agriculture Finance, Mr Olugbenga Awe, disclosed that Heritage Bank was committed to the development of agribusiness and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
“Our support cuts across the entire value chain with focus on large corporates and small holder farmers. We encourage value addition and ultimately export,” he said.
He, however, noted that the bank’s support goes beyond food sufficiency to increasing cash crop commodities that would boost Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings.
He hinted that Heritage Bank is effectively tackling the bottlenecks since it has long identified the opportunities in agribusiness, thereby offering solutions to ease of doing business in the sector.
“For ease of financing, we would be better off with functional commodity exchanges as a country. We can start by refinancing commodities through warehousing receipt systems, gradually we will move to crop receipt.
“With commodities exchange, the value-chain is strengthened and the whole system is structured.
“Exchange helps in reducing the long marketing chain, it helps in enforcement of commodity standards, it provides price certainty and in some cases storage and warehousing facilities,” Mr Awe suggested.
He further noted that, “If we sustain the current momentum on rice, we shall surely export rice in the nearest future, and the operative word here is sustaining the momentum. However, there is need for strategic alignment on objectives.
“The current focus by government is on small holders’ farmers using the instrumentality of the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) by Central Bank of Nigeria.”
The Agriculture Finance’s Group Head also said to hasten the export drive, commercial farmers will have to step in and drive the process using mechanization on thousands of hectares of farmland with vast irrigation networks and all year round farming as most importers need large quantities delivered on schedule.
Meanwhile, he noted that with the Heritage Bank strategic partnership, CBN had continued to provide lot of supports through various on-lending scheme, as ABP has made visible and measurable impact especially in rice, while hoping other commodities especially grains would follow.
Mr Awe explained that via the strategic partnerships Heritage Bank have achieved vast footprints in agribusiness.
“For example, through our partnership with Triton Aqua Africa Limited and on-lending support from CBN, Heritage Bank has provided N2 billion for fishery to reduce our heavy reliance on fish import.
“Nigeria’s current annual demand for fish is estimated at 2.7 million metric tonnes and we currently produce about 800,000 metric tonnes.
“With support from CBN through Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme CACS, Triton is now producing about 27,000 metric tonnes and their projection is to reach 100,000 metric tonnes in five years.
“From recent forecast, they will meet that projection easily. The bank is also supporting rice farmers under the ABP in Bakolori, Zamfara, Sanga in Kaduna and Soyabeans farmers in Rijana, Kaduna. Heritage Bank also has ongoing projects across the country,” he said.
MTN Declares N10 Per Share Dividend as Revenue Hits N2.0trn
By Dipo Olowookere
Shareholders of MTN Nigeria will receive a N10 per share dividend for the financial year ending December 31, 2022.
The board proposed this cash reward in a regulatory notice filed to the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited.
The payment is only for shareholders who have the company’s stocks as of March 27, 2023, with the payment date fixed for April 20, 2023.
The telecommunications giant is rewarding its investors with this money amid a very profitable accounting year.
Details of its financial results showed that the revenue generated in the year under consideration improved by 21.5 per cent to N2.0 trillion compared with the N1.7 trillion achieved in the preceding year.
The improvement in the total turnover was due to increases in its mobile subscribers by 10.5 per cent to 75.6 million, active data users by 15.3 per cent to 39.5 million, and active fintech subscribers by 57.5 per cent to 14.9 million.
More people had reasons to join the MTN network because of the decision of the company to “invest in the resilience of our business and networks, expanding coverage and capacity.”
In the year, MTN cut its expenses by 21.2 per cent to N941.9 billion from N777.2 billion, with employee costs dropping to N45.1 billion from N48.4 billion, helping the operating profit to rise to N733.3 billion from N584.8 billion.
With a finance income of N13.8 billion versus N11.9 billion in FY 2021 and finance costs of N213.1 billion versus N160.0 billion a year earlier, the profit before tax closed at N534.0 billion as against the N436.7 billion recorded in the previous year, while the profit after tax stood at N358.9 billion, in contrast to N298.7 billion in FY 2021.
“2022 was challenging due to global macroeconomic and geopolitical volatility, resulting in higher inflation, supply chain uncertainties, foreign exchange volatility and availability.
“In Nigeria, Inflation reached a 17-year high of 21.5% in November before moderating slightly to 21.3 per cent in December, bringing the average for the year to 18.8 per cent and putting pressure on consumer spending.
“To curb rising inflation, the Central Bank of Nigeria increased interest rates four times in 2022, bringing the Monetary Policy Rate to 16.5 per cent – up by five pp during the year. This was further raised by 1pp in January 2023 to 17.5 per cent,” the chief executive of the firm, Mr Karl Toriola, said.
“In line with our dividend policy and guided by our ambition to create shared value for our stakeholders, the Board of Directors has proposed a final dividend of N10 per share to be paid out of distributable net income.
“This brings the total dividend for the year to N15.60 kobo per share, an increase of 18.9 per cent, delivering economic value to our shareholders,” he added.
Buhari Tasks MOFI Board to Grow Assets to N100trn
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The newly inaugurated board of the Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOFI) has been given the mandate to grow its Assets Under Management from the current value of N18 trillion to at least N100 trillion in the next 10 years.
A statement issued on Wednesday by Mr Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, disclosed that the charge was given at the State House, Abuja, during the inauguration of the MOFI board shortly before the commencement of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting today.
The President also tasked the new board to “be the clearinghouse for the management of federal government investments and assets in line with global best practices with a view to ensuring that these investments are delivering superior risk-adjusted returns to the government.”
He also called on the new MOFI to “work with other MDAs to create a consolidated national asset register with a view to converting these assets into cashflow-generating entities to support the government’s revenue drive and; partner with the government with a view to using government-owned investments and assets to support the government in delivering on its social and economic obligations to the citizenry.”
To this effect, he directed the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, to commence the process of amending the MOFI Act and other legislations to institutionalise this reform further and ensure that MOFI is restructured and repositioned to become a trusted custodian and manager of Federal Government investments and assets.
President Buhari said the event was significant as the restructured MOFI will help identify “what we own” and how to get the best out of them.
According to him, the MOFI Act of 1959, now Cap. 229, Laws of the Federation, 2004 “explicitly empowers MOFI to enter into commercial transactions of any description on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria in its own name. As a result, MOFI was used as a Special Purpose Vehicle across different sectors to invest in commercial entities over the last 64 years. To put this in context, MOFI was created even before Nigeria’s independence.”
Speaking further, the President said, “MOFI was not structured to be governed or resourced to deliver on the expected mandate. MOFI’s peers, on the other hand, that were deliberately set up with the institutional framework, governance structure, and execution capacity, have gone on to make major social and economic impacts in their respective nations. Many of these have become global brands for investing domestically and internationally.
“As part of the governance structure, there will be a Governing Council headed by me, a Board of Directors under the leadership of a former Minister of Finance and an Executive Management Team headed by Dr Armstrong Takang.”
President Buhari reminded members of the Governing Council as well as the Board of Directors that this administration expected much from them. Specifically, he tasked Ministers who are members to “create an enabling environment that will facilitate the creation of a National Asset Register that will be harnessed to strengthen our fiscal and economic realities and the optimization of our investments and assets that will be under the purview of MOFI.”
In her remarks, Mrs Ahmed thanked President Buhari for his support and approvals that have made the restructuring and repositioning of MOFI possible, assuring him that Council members and the Board will ensure that the new MOFI delivers on its mandates.
US Stocks May Give Back Ground Ahead Of Fed Announcement
The major US index futures are currently pointing to a lower open on Wednesday, with stocks likely to give back ground following the strong upward move seen in the previous session.
Traders may cash in on gains by US stocks yesterday ahead of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy announcement this afternoon.
While the Fed is widely expected to raise interest rates by 25 basis points, traders will look to the accompanying statement for clues about the outlook for further rate hikes.
After a slightly cautious start, stocks climbed higher on Tuesday thanks to sustained buying across the board.
Investors picked up stocks right through the day’s session, digesting a slew of stronger-than-expected earnings updates and the latest batch of economic data.
Data showing a slowdown in the pace of growth in US labour costs helped raise expectations that the Federal Reserve will soften its aggressive approach to fighting inflation.
The major averages all ended with strong gains. The Dow ended with a gain of 368.95 points or 1.09 per cent at 34,086.04. The S&P 500 surged 58.83 points or 1.46 per cent to 4,076.60, while the Nasdaq climbed 190.74 points or 1.67 per cent to 11,584.55.
The Dow gained about 6.6 per cent in the month, while the S&P surged nearly 3 per cent, and the Nasdaq gained as much as 11.5 per cent.
Data showing a drop in labour costs has reinforced the view that the central bank will likely slow the pace of its monetary policy tightening and raise the interest rate by 25 basis points.
The central bank’s accompanying statement will be in focus for clues about further interest rate hikes.
On the economic front, data from the Labor Department showed employment cost index wages in the US increased by 1% on quarter in the fourth quarter of 2022, after rising 1.3 per cent in the previous quarter.
The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index in the United States decreased 0.8% month-over-month in November of 2022, the same as in October and marking a fifth consecutive decline.
A report from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said the Chicago PMI in the United States fell back to 44.3 points in January of 2023 from 44.9 in December and compared to market forecasts of 45. The reading pointed to a fifth consecutive month of contraction in business activity in the Chicago region.
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