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Analysis: Is First Bank’s acquisition of Heritage Bank and Polaris Bank a game changer?

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Age they say is nothing but a number but not when you are 126 and still relevant. FirstBank Ltd, Nigeria’s oldest bank has in so many ways stood the test of time.

If there is any bank you can reference for experience when it comes to transformation and innovation from the second industrial revolution to what many see now as the fourth, then it is perhaps this bank. Innovate or die as they say.

Last week, news reports suggest the bank was considering an acquisition of Polaris and Heritage Banks respectively. The bank promptly issued a press release neither affirming nor denying that a deal was under consideration.

However, it said enough to warrant a review of the consequences of taking yet another bold step in the bank’s ageless journey in survival.

Heritage Bank which began operations in 2012 after acquiring the license and structure of the old Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria is not new to controversy.

In 2014 Heritage Bank did the unthinkable, it was announced by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) as the winner of the bid for the acquisition of the defunct Enterprise Bank.

Since then, reports about the bank’s ability to remain as a going concern have dominated the news. Polaris Bank, on the other hand, was created by the CBN after it took over the hugely mismanaged Skye Bank Plc.

The bank is yet to publish its financials and the impression out there is that the bank is on life support on the instruction of the CBN.

So, why could FirstBank or indeed any bank be interested in these banks? Last January, the CEO of Heritage Bank Mr. Ifie Sekibo revealed that it will soon receive fresh capital injection from yet to be disclosed investors, a development that is expected to push up the bank’s capital base and by so doing, drive growth.

This was the first official indication that the bank needed capital to survive and remain competitive. FirstBank’s position as the largest bank by total assets and deposits was also usurped by Access Bank following its acquisition with Diamond Bank.

To wrestle the bank, it’s position at the top, First Bank will have to consider both organic and inorganic means. Thus, an acquisition with Heritage Bank is logical. Heritage Bank also recently launched its digital banking business, Octopus putting it at the forefront of the FinTech driven future of banking.

FirstBank potential acquisition with Polaris is one that is hard to decipher from a value proposition. Thus, a possible deal will have to exclude liabilities for it to make sense.

To be fair, Polaris bank has reinvented itself over the last couple of years despite its legacy challenges and ability to attract deposits. From rebranding to launching new products it has struggled to remain relevant as AMCON continues its search for a buyer.

Last year, the bad loan bank announced it will step up a sale of the bank after the 2019 general elections.

Is this a good move for First Bank? First Bank has its own fair share of challenges and is currently undergoing a transformation. The bank is reining in on its notoriously high cost to income ratio and has also reduced its non-performing loans ratio. It has also led the sector in terms of financial inclusion and is also tech conscious with its very impressive banking app and associated services.

The race to scale driven dominance in the banking sector will likely hinge heavily on inorganic growth such as mergers and acquisitions. For a Holdco like FBNH, First Bank’s parent company, the structure allows target driven acquisitions which could solidify the bank’s position as a leading financial services supermarket.

But the risks are obvious and real. An acquisition is not just a combination of balance sheets, it can be a clash of cultures and an explosion of costs. Recent banking acquisitions have not really resulted in the so-called dominance it touts or cost synergies it hopes to optimize.

Nigeria’s largest banks by profits and market capitalization remain Zenith Bank and GT Bank and both avoided mergers and acquisitions during the Soludo driven banking consolidation race.

If FirstBank is to cut a deal to swallow both Polaris and Heritage Banks respectively, then it needs thorough due diligence and must avoid carrying on liabilities and costs that often weigh down on consolidation gains.

In 2017, we got a chance to ask the CEO of the bank, Dr Adesola Adeduntan if the bank could win the race to get to trillions in gross revenue. In response, he took a deep breath and remarked that First Bank was in it to win it. This acquisition may just be a chance to nick it.

Source: Nairametrics

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Keystone Bank pledges N1bn to strengthen fight against Coronavirus

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As part of a robust effort to combat the deadly Coronavirus outbreak in Nigeria, the management of Keystone Bank today announced the donation of N1 billion for the purchase of relief materials, critical care facilities and protective gear to contain the spread of the virus.

The pledge was made during the Bankers’ Committee meeting held recently to support the Central Bank of Nigeria in its bid to raise funds for the fight against coronavirus pandemic through the newly-formed Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Committee against COVID-19.

In a press statement, the Acting Managing Director, Mr. Olaniran Olayinka explained that the decision to make the pledge is part of the bank’s Corporate Social Responsibility pillar to provide an enabling environment by improving the well-being and health of the communities wherein we operate.

“What we have is a situation that calls for an inclusive support for humanity. A time that all hands must be on deck to support the assiduous effort the government is making to manage the situation. The decision to support the government’s effort is consistent with our unshakable resolve to promote health initiatives which is very key pillar in our corporate social responsibility plans. It is also crucial in our role as a signatory to the principles of responsible banking by the United Nations Environment Finance Initiative working to achieve a sustainable future”.

“At Keystone Bank, we remain firmly committed to our promise of supporting Nigerians to thrive and this means for us showing up when it matters most. For us, this is one of such moments”.

Mr. Olayinka expressed optimism that the current pandemic will soon be a thing of the past. “I am very confident that the current prevailing health challenge will soon be an episode in the footnote of our history; We have the capable human resources, the will of the part of the government and the support of every Nigerian to end the pandemic at the earliest possible time.”

Commenting further, Mr. Olayinka noted that the donation is one of other support initiatives put in place by the bank to support the fight against the pandemic.

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Ecobank commits over N100m to COVID-19 radio campaign ‘StaySafeNigeria’

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Ecobank Nigeria Limited says it is committing about a hundred million naira to drive its National Radio Campaign “StaySafeNigeria”, being part of its corporate actions to support measures to check the rising spread of Coronavirus.

The campaign which is a call to action, creating awareness and educating the populace on safety measures to adopt against the dreaded COVID -19, is currently running in over 50 radio stations across the six geopolitical zones of the country, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) network news.

This amount is in addition to the bank’s contribution as a corporate member of the Bankers Committee and the Nigerian Private Sector led Coalition to raise funds against COVID-19, The details of this contribution will be made public in due course.

The campaign messaging which is in Pidgin, Ibo, Hausa and Yoruba is also being driven through the social media and is trending extensively on #StaySafeNigeria, #StaySafeNaija, #StaySafe tag following massive support from members of the Creative industry essentially on philanthropic basis. The bank in a statement thanked the entertainers and football stars who have so far adopted the campaign as a show of commitment and belief in the bank’s approach in the public enlightenment of Nigerians, ensuring the message is taken to every door step, especially at the grassroots for all citizens to imbibe the ethos of “StaySafeNigeria”.

The bank listed those who have supported to include the Legends of Nollywood, Linda Ikeji, Brodashaggi, Alex Ekubo, Taooma, Sound Sultan, Bolanke Austen Peter’s, Mr Macaroni, Teni Oluwo, Dala Oruwari, former African Footballer of the year, Victor Ikpeba, football legends, Austin Eguavoen, Garba Lawal and Mutiu Adepoju amongst several others. The bank is also using the opportunity to invite other stars to join the #“StaySafeNigeria” campaign to sustain a new national reorientation on hygiene.

Also the bank has announced that any money transferred on its digital platforms below N5,000 will be free of charge to customers, until 30 April, to encourage citizens adopt digital banking that supports safety measures, particularly the social distancing campaign, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Announcing this in Lagos, Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria Patrick Akinwuntan says the bank’s priority is peoples’ wellbeing and is therefore determined to support everyone in the face of unplanned shutdown which already have huge economic impact citizens.

By this announcement users of Ecobank Mobile, Ecobank Online, USSD-Ecobank *326#, Omni Lite, can now do transfers below N5,000 at zero fees. Before now Ecobank customers who performs transactions on the bank’s platform by dialing *326# does so free of the USSD session fee.

“We have no choice as a caring and responsible corporate organisation than to rise up to this challenge of our generation and make every contribution to check the spread and save lives. Our media campaign is engaging people in very simple language on important tips to stay safe. The campaign will be sustained to continue promoting good hygiene conduct even after we overcome Coronavirus. we are also determined to support the Nigerian government and to ensure impact of the business shut down is minimal on the citizens. We encourage our customers to utilize our digital self-service solutions, including Ecobank Mobile App, Ecobank Online, EcobankPay, Ecobank OmniPlus, Omni Lite and the RapidTransfer App without having to visit branches. This is as part of our efforts to ensure social distancing which will help curtail the spread of COVID-19. By utilizing these digital offerings, you can easily access your bank accounts, make payments, transfer funds, process salaries, and carry out your other ancillary banking transactions from the comfort of your home and office without visiting the branch”. Mr Akinwuntan stated.

Also speaking, Olukorede Demola-Adeniyi, Head of Consumer Banking, Ecobank Nigeria, says customers who are yet to upgrade to the new Ecobank Mobile App 4.0 should quickly do so. The Ecobank Mobile App is available for all banking transactions because of its versatility and salient benefits which include the following;

The ability to send money to anyone via email or SMS by simply selecting the recipient from your contacts and send money to their email or phone number. The recipient will be able to get the money using any bank account, even if they don’t have an Ecobank account.

Ability to create virtual cards for safe shopping and enjoy the convenience of a virtual card without worrying about it being linked to your account – customer can create several virtual cards.

Ability to split bills without fuss, enabling you to share expenses as you desire, with friends and family, who will simply get notifications on what they need to refund you. It’s a smart way to get your money back without hounding”.

Further, Mrs. Demola-Adeniyi, reiterated that the Ecobank Mobile app supports customers to pay the fast and stress-free way with EcobankPay by simply scanning the QR code or dial *326*6*Amount*Terminal ID# to pay. “It saves you PoS charges and less human contact. When next you are at the store and need to pay, just ask the merchant for EcobankPay. Regardless of what you want to achieve, the Ecobank Mobile App is available for you”. She noted.

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COVID 19: First Bank Chooses To Solve Education Challenges Facing Parents

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The CEO of FirstBank Dr. Adesola Adeduntan has announced that the Bank in partnership with government and other stakeholders is extending its attention to immediate needs in our society in the face of the widespread COVID-19 by putting in place complementary efforts in education to support students and minimize the disruption to education resulting from schools’ closure.  This is following the activation of the Bank’s Business Continuity Process and subsequent deployment of safety initiatives and measures implemented across its business outlets nationwide, to help flatten the curve and ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff customers and other stakeholders.

Dr Adeduntan explained that many parents are concerned about children and wards whose education is truncated by the current crisis and are particularly worried about keeping children at home idle as all schools from primary through to tertiary institutions are closed across the nation. Emphasising the urgent need to ensure that our children are not disadvantaged, remain engaged and stay safe during this period, he announced the Bank has concluded plans with the necessary authorities to enable as many children as possible access e-learning.

Speaking on the initiative to enable as many children move on to safe e-learning, Dr Adeduntan said “we are warmed by the fact that different organizations have risen to the various challenges and are supporting in areas such as health and welfare, and we feel the peculiar needs of our children and youth must not be left out and have therefore elected to focus on contributing to solving the current education challenge. Education remains the bedrock of any society and we believe that when we educate our children we enable our nation and produce global citizens who provide ground breaking solutions for the continent and the world at large.  So, building educational partnerships is an avenue to support our children to remain resourceful and fully engaged at this time so they can compete favorably with their peers internationally. It’s a responsible approach to empower them given that they are our future and the foundation to build our country to greatness. By partnering on this we are solving a problem for families and for our future.”

To this end, we are working with the States; United Nations Global Compact; innovative technology firms such as Robert & John to provide e-learning solution with the Government approved curriculum for students across the country. The roll out begins first week in April starting with Lagos State where FirstBank will support the roll out of Roducate which has been adjudged a best fit solution by educators, teachers and all necessary authorities. This solution has the full curriculum on both the online and offline versions with the offline version of particular interest as it eliminates the challenge posed by data affordability.

We call on well-meaning organisations and individuals to join us and collectively rise to address the challenges this current pandemic presents to our children and youth and are reaching out to other organisations with complementary solutions to also partner on this initiative for the youth who are our future. They must not be lost in this pandemic’.

For more information on how you can partner, please click on the link below

https://www.firstbanknigeria.com/corporate-responsibility-sustainability/education-health-welfare/drive-to-move-one-million-students-to-e-learning/

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