Leadership (Abuja)

21 January 2013

Nigeria: SGBN Resumes Operations As Heritage Bank

Embattled Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria (SGBN) is set to resume operations under a new name, HeritageBank , following a regional banking licence granted by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to Heritage Banking Company Limited.

The bank is set to commence validation of the account holders of SGBN, an exercise which will run for one month, starting from next week Tuesday, January 29, 2013.

The CBN had recently approved the licence of the bank to operate as a regional bank. According to the terms of the CBN approval, Heritage Banking Company Ltd. which will trade as Heritage Bank is to offer full commercial banking services under a regional bank status.

The letter conveying CBN's approval for grant of Banking Licence to HBC entitled 'Re: Application for a Commercial Banking Licence with Regional Authorisation' was dated December 27, 2012 with reference number FPR/LAD/CON/HBC/02/062, and signed by the CBN director of financial policy and regulations, Chris O. Chukwu.

LEADERSHIP learnt that International Energy Insurance (IEI) plc, which has Ifie Sekibo as executive vice chairman, is a major shareholder, along with the Saraki family, having about 10 per cent in the new bank.

The Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) recently said SGBN would soon embark on a verification exercise to ascertain its deposit base.

As a preliminary step, the bank announced that it would commence an immediate validation exercise for account holders of the former SGBN.

In a media statement signed by the group head, corporate affairs, Heritage Bank, Josephine Aligwekwe, the bank announced that with the CBN approval secured, it is set to commence operations immediately in conformity with the terms of the licence.

As a first step, the statement said Heritage Bank would commence from Tuesday, January 29, a four-week exercise aimed at validating the accounts held by customers of the old SGBN.

"All customers of the former Societe Generale Bank (Nig.) Ltd. are advised to look out for announcements in the national dailies detailing the processes and procedures for the account validation exercise", the statement noted

However, the fate of Savannah Bank, which likewise got its licence back through the same court judgment in 2009, is still uncertain, as the management is yet to get credible investors, and neither has the CBN acceded to requests for forbearance by the owners.

The CBN had extended the June 30, 2012, deadline for the bank to recapitalise.

The CBN revoked the operating licence of Savannah Bank in February 2002, while that of Societe Generale Bank Plc was revoked on January 16, 2006.

The NDIC and CBN handed over Savannah Bank to the owners on June 9, 2009, with a promise of ensuring a speedy conclusion of the necessary processes for re-opening the bank to the public.

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