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Report Raises Concerns over Health of Nigerian Banks

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A number of banks in Nigeria are living on borrowed time as they struggle to recover sticky assets and pare down their loan loss provisions, according to Business Hallmark.

 

The report said that the banks are buried in a heap of poor quality loan assets in the guise of high none performing loans (NPL’s) and that all may not be as well with the banks as the domestic regulator, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), would have many believe.

 

Indeed, recently the international credit rating agency, Fitch, marked a down grade in the credit ratings of virtually all Nigerian banks as the agency pointed to the worsening condition of their credits.

 

Within the year Fitch’s analysts downgraded the outlook for four Nigerian banks from stable to negative; the banks were Zenith Bank, GT Bank, First Bank and Diamond Bank.

 

The problems with the banks downgraded were attributed to, ‘heightened vulnerability of capital due to downside asset quality risks’ which in simpler terms meant that these banks were finding it increasingly difficult to get back the monies that they lent to customers.

 

Third quarter 2017 results for nearly all the banks have been dyed in rose colour. Nine months’ results for the banks have shown profit figures glide up as the economy edges out of recession. But how real are the numbers?

 

Truth be told with discussions with a fair number of bankers who did not want their names put in print, the profit tally for most of the banks, ‘where beautiful Picasso replicas, as brilliant as they were; they were all fake’ said a senior manager of one of the banks with headquarters in Victoria Island, Lagos.

 

The banker insisted that, ‘you cannot make omelets without breaking eggs, with interest rates at double  digits and manufacturers rolling in escalating debt as retailers groan in agony, how the heck does a bank make money with customers hung over a barrel?’, he asked pensively.

 

When it was pointed out that banks had stopped granting credit and had actually become more comfortable simply buying treasury instruments at double digit yields he agreed but noted that, ‘banks may have been able to turn a trick or two by buying treasuries over the last two years, but that is not core retail banking; it is more of an investment banking function and it still does not address the problem of proper loan loss charges against risk assets that have already been created.’

 

In other words most banks have made inadequate provisions for loan impairments or bad credits and have simply engaged in a number of clever accounting rouses to restructure bad loans to make them appear hale and perhaps hearty.

It is obviously difficult to establish how bad Nigerian commercial bank loan portfolios precisely are, especially as even the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the sector’s chief regulator, and the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Company (NDIC) often get caught on the wrong foot as bank examiners serially underestimate impairment charges required by banks to cover their deteriorating loan assets.

 

This has led to independent observers classifying bank loans as a mixture of financial fact, fiction and something one analyst recently called ‘faction’, a grey area between reality and outright falsehood.

 

Peering through reams of recently published financial data is not likely to shed very much light on the warm matter of bank assets and capital adequacy.

 

The problem of poor bank loan books is not just that of the smart reclassification of bank loans by managers form non-performing to performing but also the accounting convention of using historical valuation of bank assets rather than adjustment of the assets on the books by marking to market which means that if interest rates go up the value of banks assets simultaneously go down and vice versa.

 

It would also mean that the increasing riskiness of bank loans when interest rates rise would be better captured on bank books when loan quality is measured as weaker when rates go up; in other words as interest rates go up bank loan quality comes down.

 

As lending rates have hovered between 25 and 28 per cent over the last two years, bank asset quality has taken a turn for the worse.

 

The CBN estimates that delinquent loans as a proportion of loans outstanding on average industry wide is about 12 per cent as against the regulatory rate of 5 per cent. But even the twelve per cent claim is disputable.

 

Investigations suggest a more accurate rate of double that number putting real average loan impairment ratio closer to 25 per cent or a quarter of all loans outstanding.  This clearly indicates that banks would have to recapitalize operations to reduce leverage (debt to equity ratio) and build greater strength in balance sheets.

 

In a telephone conversion with Business Hallmark, Chidi Ajaegbu, former President Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), noted that the challenge of bank credit assets and their current levels of equity was not dire enough to cause major worry, ‘I don’t think we have an immediate systemic problem but something must be done to ensure that we do not slide into systemic distress’. He was of the opinion that banks may need to raise their capital base in 2018 by either rights issue or Initial Public Offers (IPO’s).

 

Also commenting on the issue, Dr. Afolabi Olowokere of Financial Derivatives Company Limited (FDC) said it is a known fact that the relatively low capital base of banks could constitute a serious problem for such institutions anywhere in the world. ‘It is normal that the capitalisation of banks will be eroded at a time like this if you consider the huge non-performing loans which they have to provide for. I hope the banks do not suffer any shocks because they have links with one another, poor management of one could set off a contagion that hurts all’’, he said.

 

In his own observations Dr. Adi Bongo, economist and faculty member, Lagos Business School was of the view that the recent Fitch downgrades of local bank was a fallout of the poor macroeconomic management that started last year, adding that the banking industry suffered huge capital flight as portfolio investments that were plugged into banks during the consolidation period, began to pull out on concerns over macroeconomic direction.

 

He further explained that, ‘Nigeria has been performing poorly in capital importation. As money began to leave the system, banks where many portfolio investors had plunked capital, started having liquidity challenges.’ Noting that, ‘…because of the state of the economy, non-performing loans in banks have increased geometrically. The combination of these two issues has caused banks to face serious challenges, except those that have strong equity bases.’

 

With calls for bank assets to be marked to market or at least made compliant with International Accounting Standards Board’s (IASB’s) IFRS 9 rules, the days of bankers running rings around regulators in regards to the quality of their balance sheets is slowly fading into distant memory or at least that is the hope

 

 

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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E-Financial

SEC’s eDividend Campaign Moves to South South

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Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Nigeria through its Port Harcourt Zonal Office will be holding a Town Hall meeting with stakeholders and the general public.

 

This is in a move to enlighten investors and the general public on the process and benefits of eDividend and to discuss other contemporary issues in the Nigerian Capital Market.

 

This will also provide an opportunity to throw more highlights on investment opportunities available in Nigerian Capital market and how retail investors can benefit therein.

 

The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 18, 2018 at Hall ‘C’, Landmark Hotel, 4, No. 4, Worlu Street, off Olu-Obasanjo Road, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Registration of participants starts by 9:00amwhile the main event starts at 10:00am.

 

The event will create an arena for the Apex capital market regulator to educate and enlighten the public on the above subject and also for operators, stakeholders and various investors to interact and discuss other issues surrounding the activities of the capital market.

 

Recall that the SEC in January 2015 commenced the e-dividend registration campaign in Abuja with a Road Show culminating in a Town Hall Meeting.

 

The Commission had announced that the e-dividend registration would continue seamlessly in spite of the expiration of free registration deadline which and also enjoined investors yet to enroll, to continue with the registration at a cost of N150 only.

 

“Investors should continue to approach their banks or registrars, as usual, to seamlessly mandate their bank accounts for the collection of their dividends electronically, including unclaimed dividends, not exceeding 12 years of issue; as the N150 would not be demanded from them at the point of registration.

 

“The N150 fee would not be demanded from the investors at the point of registration or submission of completed e-dividend mandate forms, divergent views have begun to trail the Commission’s stance that investors yet to register are to bankroll the exercise at a marginal cost of N150” the SEC added.

 

 

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E-Financial

Broadband, Mobile Phones, Others Expanding Business Frontiers – Okere

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Austin Okere, founder, CWG, has said that the ubiquity of broadband and the pervasiveness of mobile phones, along with breakthrough technology such as Artificial intelligence, Big Data and Blockchain are expanding the frontiers for business models in ways that were hitherto not possible, and leveling the playing field in the process.

He stated this in his presentation delivered at the 2018 Lagos Bankers & Stakeholders’ Nite held in Lagos over the weekend.

According to him, ‘any bank that does not read the signs and join the innovation train will definitely be disrupted and left behind. Remember that there was a time when the Post Office was at the center of our lives. When was the last time you visited a post office?’.

“Even though cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin tend to steal the limelight, it is their underlying blockchain technology that is proving to be of practical benefit. This technology, which goes beyond financial application, is expected to disrupt global supply chains by boosting transaction speed across borders and improving transparency.

“Essentially, the blockchain is a shared virtual public ledger where encrypted transactions are confirmed by outside parties. Confirmed transactions are placed in a “block” and added to the chain, hence the name blockchain. It is this technology that the FinTechs are leveraging to disrupt the traditional banks.

“Here in Nigeria, blockchain can help immensely unlock the immense capital locked in land assets that are not enumerated because of an antiquated system of land administrated that is very ripe for disruption.

“The most disruptive application of the blockchain technology however, is in the Financial Sector; and this will form the focus of my discourse. The consistent complain about banks have reached a crescendo in recent years. Is this justified?” he said.

 Okere added that Fintech companies in emerging markets have shown that with blockchain technology, it is possible to leapfrog to new forms of banking.

“Truth be told, Banks are best placed to continue to influence the future of Financial Services because of their huge branch network, solid reputations, and risk controls, as well as years of customer cultivation and loyalty. They however, have to radically change the mindset of we win when you lose’.

He noted that regulators are now helping Fintechs. “Fintechs are getting a lot of support from Regulators, believing that Fintech firms are small enough for any problems to be manageable, and on the other hand, might produce useful innovation (the sandbox approach).

“The intention is to lower market entry barriers for Fintech companies. For instance, France’s Central Bank has announced opening up a new innovation lab, aiming to collaborate with blockchain startups.

“In December 2015, Nasdaq executed its first trade on a blockchain, through its Linq ledger. The exchange said the blockchain promises to expedite trade clearing and settlement – all the steps needed to transfer the asset from seller to buyer including recording the transaction — from three days to as little as 10 minutes. That’s because the trades remove many manual processes and bypass third parties.

“As such, settlement risk exposure can be reduced by over 99%, dramatically lowering capital costs and systemic risk. Other stock exchanges tinkering with the blockchain include Australia, Germany, Japan, Korea, London,Toronto and  Myanmar.”

Okere explained that the future of Fintech seems bright. “Accenture recently released a report which found that investment in Fintech around the world has increased dramatically from $930 million in 2008 to more than $12 billion by early 2015.

“The Fintechs employ Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Machine Learning to glean the credit habits of customers from their mobile usage, and so have mitigated against the risk of default.

“The homepage of LendingClub advertises personal loans of up to $40,000. You can “apply online in minutes” and “get funded in as little as a few days,”. Another prominent Fintech lender Funding Circle claims that small businesses can get loans from between $25,000 and $500,000 in as little as 10 days.

“These are innovative services that seek to fill important niches in the credit markets. They enable people who have historically been shunned by banks to get loans in order to expand their businesses,” he said.

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E-Financial

Farmcrowdy Wins Digital Business of the Year Award in Africa

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Farmcrowdy, Nigeria’s first and leading digital agriculture platform has won the Digital Business of the Year (2018) award in Africa. The award was granted at the annual Global African Business Awards (GABA) ceremony in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Jimoh Maiyegun, Farmcrowdy’s Chief Technology Officer at the Global African Business Awards ceremony in Addis Ababa.

Launched in 2017, GABA, the world’s premier annual business award was created to celebrate, honour and generate public recognition of the achievements and positive contributions of organizations and working professionals in the continent of Africa.

Other nominees of the Digital Business of the Year award include e-commerce platforms – Konga, Jumia, Zando, Dressmeoutlet, Mall for Africa and Dealdey; WeFarm, the world’s largest farmer-to-farmer digital network; Interswitch payment gateway; and Delvv.io, South Africa’s branding and refinement partners.

Onyeka Akumah, Founder and CEO of Farmcrowdy says, “we are honoured to have our hard work aimed at impacting on the lives of rural farmers recognised.

We are delighted about the great opportunities ahead of us as we continually strive to remain at the forefront of technological innovation in Agriculture across Nigeria and eventually the continent of Africa.”

With a team of 35, Farmcrowdy has, in the last 20 months, empowered over 7,000 direct and indirect rural farmers and given thousands of farm sponsors a platform to participate in Agriculture from their computers or mobile phones in order to make profit at harvest.

This impact has seen the platform plant Maize, Rice and Cassava on over 8,000 Acres of farmland in less than 2 years and raised close to 600,000 chickens to boost food production in the country.

The leading digital agriculture platform has also raised $1.4 million dollars in seed funding from local and international investors including Cox Enterprises, Social Capital, Techstars Ventures and most recently, won a grant from the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator Innovator Fund.

So far, the funds have given the leading startup the potency to scale its operations to 10 states of operation in Nigeria with plans for more expansion across more states and regions.

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