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Improved Share Price As Prove of Fidelity Bank’s Growth

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When the management of the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX) in July 2023 announced that it was reclassifying Fidelity Bank Plc from small-price stock to medium-price stock, financial analysts concluded that the road to attaining Tier1 status by the bank is closer than ever imagined. The NGX said the reclassification became necessary because Fidelity Bank shares have been trading above the N5.00 mark since February 2023. According to the NGX, rule 15.29 of the Rulebook of the Exchange, 2015 (Dealing Members’ Rules) notes that equities priced above N5 per share for at least four of the most recent six months of trading, or new security listings priced above N5 per share at the time of listing on NGX are classified as medium price stock. “Fidelity Bank traded above the N5.00 mark on February 20, 2023 and has remained above the N5 mark up until close of business on 30 June 2023. “This indicates that Fidelity Bank has been trading above N5 for at least four months in the last six months. Therefore, it should be reclassified from small price stock to medium price stock,” it pointed out. The bank has continued to post commendable financial performance every quarter as it cements its position amongst leading banks in the country. In the half-year 2023 results and for the second year running, the bank emerged as the company with the highest earnings per share on the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX).

According to a report, Fidelity Bank, Seplat Energy, Total Energies, Okomu Oil, Presco, Dangote Cement, MTN Nigeria, BUA Foods, First City Monument Bank (FCMB) and Geregu Power emerged as the companies with the highest earnings per share within that review period. Earnings per share (EPS) is a company’s net profit divided by the number of common shares it has outstanding. It also indicates how much money a company makes for each share of its stock and is a widely used metric for estimating corporate value. A higher EPS indicates greater value because investors will pay more for a company’s shares if they think the company has higher profits relative to its share price. Fidelity Bank recorded an earnings per share of N184 in the first half of 2023 from N79 in the first half of 2022. The share price of the bank as of Thursday, April 25, 2024, stood at N9.00 per share as the bank traded 12.642 million shares valued at N112.071 billion in 246 deals. Fidelity Bank’s share price movement has shown intense volatility in an upward direction over the past years. The stock price has risen from N2.52 on January 04, 2010, to N10.00 on March 15, 2023, generating a YTD return of 297 per cent. The bank’s market capitalization as of Thursday, April 25, 2024, stood at N288.11 billion. Average volume stood at 11.76 million, share outstanding was 32.01 billion while free float was 31.72 billion

Stakeholders speak

Analysts believe the bank’s share price underlines its earnings growth and financial performance as higher dividend yields and future earnings forecasts have triggered demand in the money lender’s shares. Over the last ten years, the bank’s share price has risen to a resistance (highest price) of N14.20 on March 05, 2024, and a support price (lowest price) of N0.76 on November 16, 2016.

According to a Lagos-based stockbroker, ‘Fidelity Bank demonstrates the classical admonition to prospective investors of entering low and selling high. Over the last eight years, Fidelity’s stock price has risen by 44.19 per cent on a compound annual basis; very few stocks could prove a better inflation hedge”.

Ambrose Omordion, Chief Research Officer at Investdata Consulting Limited, believes that this is the best time for Fidelity as the bank’s share price is doing well among its peers. He said, “Fidelity is doing well and its share price is one of the best among its peers. This is so because the bank has recorded impressive results in its 2023 financial year. In June 2023, the bank shares rose by 32 per cent making it the nation’s best-performing bank share as of half year (June 30). “I can only see a better bank now and in the future. The bank is a potential Tier 1 bank and the performance of the bank is a pointer to the fact that the bank will scale the recapitalisation hurdle of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)”. Prince Anthony Omojola, National Coordinator, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), asserted that “Fidelity Bank is moving up in terms of performance. They have joined those paying interim dividends and they have also dipped their hand into big money tills for huge investment. They have borrowed big to be able to handle bigger contracts and be able to reap big. The reclassification is welcomed and I hope they will not disappoint us. If they can meet expectations, the benefit will be for Nigeria”. On his part, Sam Ndata, Doyen of Nigerian Stockbrokers and non-executive director at UIDC Securities Limited commented, “This is a good development. If a company performs well, it will surely be rewarded to earn investors’ confidence”. Mr. Boniface Okezie, the National Coordinator, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, commented, “Fidelity Bank has paid its dues in the financial services sector. It has contributed immensely to the development of the small and medium enterprises (SME) sector yet pays dividends to the shareholders. Last year, it took the market by surprise by declaring a dividend of 50k per share which had not happened in previous years. The massive investment in ICT and effective branch network shows it is ready to serve the customers in a better way and make the shareholders happy”.

Continuing Growth with Excellent FY 2023 Performance

In a move that has been regarded as a demonstration of the bank’s increasing profile and the bountiful harvest awaiting shareholders in the future, the bank has proposed a final dividend of 60 kobo per share on the back of its laudable full year 2023 performance. Analysis of the recently issued results shows that the bank recorded double-digit growth across key income and balance-sheet lines which led to a Profit After Tax of N99.45 billion, representing a 112.9% annual growth. Underpinning the commendable growth in profits is an 81.6% growth in Net interest income to N277.4bn, driven by a 55.5% increase in interest income, which reflect a steady rise in asset yield throughout the year. The bank’s average funding cost dropped by 20bps to 4.4% due to increased low-cost funds that grew from 83.6% in 2022FY to 97.4% in 2023. The combination of higher asset yield and lower funding cost led to an increase in Net Interest Margin (NIM) of 8.1% from 6.3% in 2022FY. Similarly, Total Customer Deposits crossed the N4tn mark as deposits grew by 55.6% from N2.6tn in 2022FY. The increase was driven by 81.1% growth in low-cost funds. All these have led the bank’s board to propose the 60 kobo per share final dividend payout which would make shareholders enjoy a total dividend of 85 kobo per share for the reporting period, a 70.0% increase compared to the 50 kobo per share paid to its shareholders in the previous year. This makes it the eighth consecutive year the bank would pay dividends. Understandably, these developments have also excited analysts who have dubbed the bank one to watch in the financial year. As banks go into a round of capital raise, Fidelity Bank is definitely one to watch by investors as their solid performance has been consistent over the years. The efficacy of their management strategy was affirmed in October 2023 when they became the first financial institution to announce their decision to raise capital in the market, long before the regulators announced their decision to raise the capital requirements for banks. For now, the bank under the leadership of Dr Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe has consistently made the right decision, earning them the enviable position of one to watch.

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Business

Abbey Mortgage Bank Cleared of Insider Trading Allegations

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Abbey Mortgage Bank Plc has been cleared of allegations regarding insider trading during a closed period, as initially stated in the Nigerian Exchange’s X-Compliance Report. After a review of the circumstances surrounding the case, the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) has decided not to enforce any penalties against the bank.
The initial report, dated May 10, had implied a breach of Rule 17:18, which governs the period of closure for trading activities by insiders who possess material, non-public information. Such periods are critical in maintaining market integrity and investor trust. However, upon closer examination and considering the explanations provided by Abbey Mortgage Bank, the NGX concluded that there was no substantial violation warranting a penalty.
Instead of a penalty, the NGX has mandated that Abbey Mortgage Bank attend a compliance training session, which is intended to reinforce adherence to regulatory standards and further ensure the bank’s commitment to best practices in corporate governance. This training, costing One million, two hundred and thirty thousand, one hundred and eighty (1,230,180) naira, highlights the NGX’s dedication to education and compliance over punitive measures.
Abbey Mortgage Bank, a leader in the Nigerian mortgage sector since its incorporation in August 1992, has continually demonstrated resilience and stability. With strategic growth initiatives, such as the addition of a significant investor in 2020, the bank has shown remarkable progress, including a 250% increase in customer deposits from N6 billion to N21 billion in 2021 and shareholders’ funds exceeding N8.5 billion.
This positive resolution highlights the importance of due process and the NGX’s role in maintaining transparency while supporting the growth and integrity of listed companies. Abbey Mortgage Bank’s proactive response and subsequent exoneration reinforces its reputation as a trusted and compliant financial institution, poised for continued success in the mortgage banking sector.
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FirstBank, Rotary Empower 102 Beneficiaries with N20m Start-Up Kits

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The First Bank of Nigeria Limited, with Rotary Club International, District 9110, has distributed N20 million worth start-up kits to 102 beneficiaries in Lagos to empower them across various trades.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that start-up kits distributed included: grinding machines, plumbing kits, deep freezers, sewing machines, generators, gas burners and cylinders, barbers and hairdressers kits, among others.

NAN further reports that the community intervention project had beneficiaries from the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria drawn from Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states.

Mrs Helen Ihonre, Unit Head, Other SME Products e-Business and Retail, FirstBank, during the presentation, offered insights on financial management and economic discipline. She emphasised the importance of maintaining records and accessing low-interest loans to support business growth and expansion.

She urged beneficiaries to prioritise saving from the inception of their businesses, while discouraging them from keeping funds at home, which might lead to misuse. “Start saving from the beginning of your business. Don’t wait till you sell then keep the money in your house”, she said.

Rotary District 9110 Governor, Ifeyinwa Ejezie, spoke on the significance of economic empowerment in Rotary’s initiatives and called for government collaboration to reach grassroots communities effectively. She emphasised the role of Rotary in complementing government efforts and stressed the need for recognition and partnership to enhance community development. She added that the N20 million items distributed were the largest the district had done in one empowerment initiative in recent times.

Bukola Bakare, Rotary International District Governor Nominee Designate, explained the process and challenges of raising funds for the project and how they incorporated Rotary from Singapore to absorb shocks from inflation. She said, “everything that has been given here today is free for the beneficiaries”.

She mentioned that FirstBank was a major sponsor for the project, adding that the 102 beneficiaries were chosen based on a needs analysis from Igbos, Hausa and Yorubas resident in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states.

“FirstBank is our major supporter for this programme” she said.

Mr Babatunde Adewale, Permanent Board Member, Lagos State Universal Basic Education, lauded the empowerment programme, while reeling out contributions and projects of Rotary International to schools in the state. “We really appreciate Rotary and SUBEB will always continue to collaborate with them,” he said.

Mrs Kemi Kalesanwo, Director, Lagos State Agency for Mass Education, said that 22 out of the 102 beneficiaries were from the agency’s vocational training centres. Kalesanwo said that the state government believed in public, private partnership and was happy with the collaboration with Rotary and FirstBank.

She listed projects donated by Rotary to include construction of one of the eight vocational training centres, owned by the agency in Igbogbo area of Lagos. Kalesanwo, therefore, urged other Nigerians to support government programmes.

Otumba Wemmy Osunde, Chairman, Illisan Development Association, Ogun State, pledged personal commitment to ensuring beneficiaries utilise the items for economic gain. Adekunmi Adeniyi, an industrial gas burner and cylinder beneficiary alongside other beneficiaries expressed gratitude to Rotary International and FirstBank for the initiative. He acknowledged the impact on their respective trades and crafts.

Culled from NAN

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Embrace Artificial Intelligence, AI Expert Tells SMEs

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Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the country have been advised to embrace Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to grow their businesses. Founder AI Nigeria, Ehia Erhabor, made this submission in his presentation titled “Using AI for business innovation” delivered at the Ecobank MySME Growth Series webinar. He emphasied that AI is a gamechanger particularly for small businesses.

According to him, AI is rapidly transforming industries by automating processes, enhancing analytics, and enabling personalized customer experience, stressing that the future of AI is its democratization where companies of all sizes including SMEs can harness its power to drive innovation and gain competitive edge.

Specifically, Erhabor pointed out that “AI technology holds the key to the future. It is quite pervasive. It is part of our existence and will impact businesses the way we can ever imagine. It can help SMEs develop new products and services by analysing data and identifying customers’ needs. AI can also be used to automate repetitive tasks, streamline workflows, and improve efficiency by reducing operational costs.”

He listed the challenges and risks of AI as bias, explainability, privacy, transparency and misuse, debunking claims in some quarters that AI will lead to the end of the world but rather a tool for development.

Also speaking, former Chief Operating Officer, Flutterwave, Bode Abifari said AI technology holds the key to the future, explaining that it simulates human intelligence to perform complex tasks like research, decision making, pattern recognition and problem solving.

She submitted that AI was capable of improving customers’ experience and engagements for the SMEs, adding that the technology can personalize interactions, provide personalized recommendations and enhance customer service leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty for small businesses.

Ecobank MySME Growth Series which started in February this year is designed to empower SME operators across the country. It is part of the bank’s commitment to train over 1 million SME operators in various sectors of the economy in 2024.  The training will provide resources for starting a business, registration processes, industry statistics, and essential considerations for running a business. The series cover key areas such as accounting, credit, sales & marketing, taxation, and inventory management.

Additionally, articles on important topics like increasing sales, advertising ideas, business management practices, case studies, and leveraging technology will be provided.  Ecobank also plans to launch an SME Mentorship program to collaborate with successful entrepreneurs. Taken together, the MySME Growth Series reflects Ecobank’s dedication to fostering growth and success within the SME community.

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