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COVID-19: FirstBank Scores Another First, Launches Next-Generation ATM

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FirstBank has launched the FastTrack ATM, a Next Generation ATM and first of its kind in Africa, designed to promote financial activities on the ATM devoid of any form of physical interaction with the machine. The introduction of the FastTrack ATM which is done in partnership with Inlaks enables customers carry out cash withdrawals without having to touch the ATM.

With the FastTrack ATM, widely referred to as Touchless Solution, the customer carries out the transaction by using his or her mobile phone to perform the needed steps designed originally for implementation on the ATM. By using one’s phone, the transaction is carried out – in advance – through the Bank’s USSD or mobile banking option. Upon the schedule, the customer visits the FastTrack ATM to complete the transaction by tapping a contactless Near Field Communication (NFC) card on the ATM to withdraw his or her cash.

FirstBank customers can now leverage the real-time mobile banking capabilities of their cellphone to activate cash withdrawals at the FastTrack ATM. The ATM solution is the Bank’s response to control the spread of COVID-19, whilst promoting the safety of customers that carry out transactions at the ATM.

Speaking on the launch of the FastTrack ATM, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, CEO, First Bank of Nigeria Limited said ‘at FirstBank, we are driven to provide seamless financial solutions to ensure our customers are able to timely carry out their transactions in safe, secured and efficient ways, thereby putting them ahead in digital banking, not just in Nigeria but Africa. We are delighted to set the pace regarding the use of the Next Generation ATM in Africa which enables customers to use their mobile phones to remotely initiate ATM-based cash withdrawals via our *894# USSD banking or FirstMobile application. At the core of our strategy lies innovation which is critical to adapting to the new normal’.

According to Olufemi Adeoti, Managing Director, Inlaks, “given that consumers are more adaptable to mobile technology Inlaks – the Africa’s leading Information Technology Solutions provider together with Hyosung ATM OEM are partnering with FirstBank to introduce the first fully compliant COVID-19 FinTech ATM. This is in alignment with the ‘new normal’ desired customer experience which includes digitalization and delivering a secure contactless cash access to the bank’s FirstMobile customers for better user experience, simplicity, speed and convenience’’

In recognition of its giant strides at promoting electronic banking in the country, FirstBank’s mobile banking application – FirstMobile –  was recently awarded the Best Mobile Banking App award 2020 in the Global Finance Best Digital Bank Awards 2020 as well as 2019 Best Mobile Banking App by Global Business Outlook.

FirstBank has been at the forefront of promoting electronic banking solution in Nigeria. In 2017, the Bank was recognized as the first financial institution in Nigeria and the West-Africa sub-region to issue 10 million ATM cards to customers across the country. The bank was the second in Africa to achieve the milestone.

These feats are achieved through the trusts in its industry leading innovative banking solutions by over 10 million customers on its USSD *894# banking platform and over 4.1 million customers on its FirstMobile banking application, endearing the Bank to process about 30% of card transactions in the entire banking industry in the country.

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London Stock Exchange Welcomes Ecobank Nigeria’s Senior Bond Issuance

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Ecobank Nigeria on Thursday opened the market at London Stock Exchange via a virtual ceremony to mark the listing of its five-year fixed rate senior unsecured US$300 million bond.

Ecobank Nigeria, a subsidiary  of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated, the parent company of the  Ecobank Group, provides the full suite of banking products, services and solutions through multiple channels to retail, commercial, corporate and public sector customers.

The bond carries a coupon rate of 7.125%, significantly below its Initial Price Thoughts of 7.75%. The successful launch was three times oversubscribed and is the lowest  coupon/yield by a Nigerian financial institution for a benchmark bond transaction since 2013. It has an Issuer Rating of B- from Fitch Rating Agency and S & P. Citi, Mashreq, Renaissance Capital and Standard Chartered Bank acted as Joint Lead Managers and Bookrunners.

The proceeds will  provide medium term funding and help to enhance the capacity of the Bank to support international trade and service across Africa.

Patrick Akinwuntan, Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria: “The strong demand for our bond shows the international appetite for the Ecobank franchise in Nigeria, its unique positioning for facilitating pan-Africa trade and  the attractive opportunity for the many investors seeking to back world-class Nigerian corporates.”

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Nigeria Unexpectedly Exits Recession

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Nigeria’s economy unexpectedly came out of a recession in the fourth quarter as growth in agriculture and telecommunications offset a sharp drop in oil production.

Gross domestic product grew 0.11% in the three months through December from a year earlier, compared with a decline of 3.6% in the third quarter, the Abuja-based National Bureau of Statistics said on its website on Thursday. The median estimate of five economists in a Bloomberg survey was for a quarterly decline of 1.86%. The economy contracted 1.92% for the full year, the most since at least 1991, according to International Monetary Fund data.

Nigeria's economy returned to growth after two quarters of contraction

The surprise rebound means Africa’s largest economy may recover faster than expected as the oil price and output increase this year. It could also point to the growing importance of the non-crude sector.

Oil production fell to 1.56 million barrels a day in the fourth quarter from 1.67 million barrels in the previous three months. While crude contributes less than 10% to the country’s GDP, it accounts for nearly all foreign-exchange earnings and half of government revenue in the continent’s biggest producer of the commodity.

The non-oil economy expanded by 1.7% from a year earlier, the strongest rate in four quarters, with agriculture growing 3.4% and telecommunications increasing 17.6%.

A stronger recovery could ease pressure on the central bank to stoke activity, paving the way for a renewed focus on its price stability mandate. That means the monetary policy committee could start raising interest rates again to fight inflation that’s been above the target band of 6% to 9% for more than five years. The panel eased by 200 basis points in 2020.

The government’s forecast for growth of 3% this year is double that of the IMF. The lender has warned a slow roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines could threaten the economy’s recovery.

“The fact that we have seen a recovery in non-oil GDP growth is positive,” said Razia Khan, chief economist for Africa and the Middle East at Standard Chartered Bank. “However, the headwinds associated with the second wave of Covid-19 may still be considerable.”

Source: Bloomberg

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Marketers Raise Petrol Price to N170, Blames Supply Shortage

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Fuel marketers have started adjusting their petrol pump prices amid the supply shortage facing private depots in Apapa.

The Punch observed that some filling stations in Lagos and Ogun states increased the pump price of petrol to N170 per litre on Tuesday from N162 per litre.

Some of the stations were Capital Oil and Gas, Fatgbems and Amo Oil, all along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Another station, Enyo Retail, adjusted its pump price to N165 per litre from N162.

The National Operation Controller, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr Mike Osatuyi, told our correspondent that members of his association had to increase the pump price because they bought the product at N160-N161 from depot owners.

IPMAN members had disrupted loading of petroleum products at private depots in Apapa last Wednesday as well as Ibadan, Ejigbo and Mosimi depots belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

They picketed the facilities to protest their inability to get products due to a new payment method introduced by the Petroleum Products Marketing Company, a subsidiary of the NNPC.

“My members buying from DAPPMAN members are buying at N160-N161, and they will have to add their transportation costs to it. So, at what price do you want them to sell? Even that N170 is still very cheap,” Osatuyi said on Tuesday.

He said the PPMC had told marketers to register under the new payment method, called ‘PPMC Customer Express’, before they could buy products from it.

“Right now, PPMC has said that the era of ATP (Authority to Pay) has gone. It means that payment has to be made online. So, my members are now in the process of doing that, and without doing it, we cannot lift products,” he added.

The NNPC, which has been the sole importer of petrol into the country in recent years, is still being relied upon by depots and marketers for the supply of the product despite the deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector.

The Punch also gathered that many private depots in Apapa, Lagos, from where many marketers get petroleum products for distribution to other states, were running dry of petrol due to supply shortage.

When contacted, the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the Corporation, Dr Kennie Obateru, denied the shortage of petrol supply from the NNPC.

He said, “We have 1.7 billion litres of product as at today, which will give us about 40 days’ sufficiency. Even some more vessels are on the programme.

“And we have not increased our ex-depot price; even though we know some of them (marketers) are sort of slowing down because they are expecting that we will react to the crude oil price increase. But for now, we haven’t done that.”

One of the major private depots told marketers to stop payment for the petrol because of the supply shortage and the uncertainty over when it would get the product.

A top official of a Lagos-based oil marketing company told our correspondent on condition of anonymity that there had been erratic supply of petrol to private depots in Apapa since last week.

The Punch

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