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Zenith Bank Sustains Market Leadership with 189% Growth in Q1 Earnings

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Zenith Bank Plc has announced its unaudited results for the first quarter ended 31st March 2024, with an impressive triple-digit growth of 189% in Gross Earnings, from ₦270 billion reported in Q1 2023 to ₦781 billion in Q1 2024. This is despite the challenging operating environment and tightening monetary policy stance.

From the unaudited statement of account submitted to the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) on Friday, 3rd May 2024, this impressive growth in the topline also enhanced the bottom line, as profit before tax (PBT) rose to ₦320 billion in Q1 2024, representing an increase of 270% from the ₦87 billion reported in Q1 2023. Profit after tax (PAT) equally grew significantly by 291% from the ₦66 billion reported in Q1 2023 to ₦258 billion in the current period.

Interest and non-interest income contributed significantly to the growth in gross earnings. Interest income grew by 155% from the ₦192billion reported in the quarter ended March 2023 to ₦489 billion in the period to 31 March2024. The growth in interest income is due to the repricing of risk assets, owing to the increase in the central bank’s Monetary Policy Rate (MPR), which currently stands at 24.75%.The growth in net interest income is primarily due to the increase in fees and commissions as well as trading grains.

The Group reported an impairment charge of ₦56 billion for Q1 2024, up from ₦8 billion recorded in Q1 2023. This is attributable to significant growth in risk assets, primarily driven by the revaluation of its USD loans, which necessitated additional impairment on the bank’s foreign currency-denominated loans.

The cost of funds grew by 48% from 2.7% in Q1 2023 to 4% in Q1 2024 due to the high-interest rate environment, while interest expense increased by 157% from ₦71 billion reported inQ1 2023 to ₦182 billion in the period to March 2024. Notwithstanding the year-on-year(YoY) increase in interest expense, net interest margin (NIM) grew by 20% from 6.9% in the3 months ended March 2023 to 8.3% in the current period ending 31 March 2024. Return on Average Equity (ROAE) and Return on Average Assets (ROAA) increased year-on-year (YoY) by 114% and 119%, respectively, due to improved profitability.

Gross loans, which are largely funded by customer deposits, grew by 30% from ₦7.1 trillion in December 2023 to ₦9.2 trillion in March 2024. Customer deposits also grew by 11%from ₦15.2 trillion in December 2023 to ₦16.8 trillion in March 2024, underpinning continued customer confidence in the Zenith brand. Total assets increased by 19% to ₦24 trillion within the same period.

The Group has consistently maintained all prudential ratios well above the minimum regulatory requirement. At the end of Q1 2024,Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) andLiquidity Ratio stood at 20% and 67%, respectively, demonstrating the Group’s ability to maintain a strong and liquid balance sheet.

The Group is making progress on the planned capital raise to support future growth and is very optimistic about meeting the new minimum capital requirements in line with the CBN’s recapitalisation directive. As the Group accelerates migration to its new technology architecture and alsotransitions into a holding company, it remains poised to maximise value for all stakeholders.

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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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