Nigeria: Zenith, Access, GTB, FBN Battle for the Crown of Nigerian Banking

24 December 2018

Suddenly it is talk of consolidation all over again in the banking sector. The ongoing business combination between Access Bank Plc and Diamond Bank Plc is clearly firing change as the big four race to control the crown jewel of the Nigerian banking sector and heighten fierce competition in the industry.

In 2004/5 the then Central Bank governor (CBN), Charles Soludo lit the fire of consolidation when he insisted banks raise their capital to at least N25 Billion. Today the CBN under Godwin Emefiele is going a step further by encouraging mergers and acquisitions with it's no - objection nod to the Access - Diamond merger, igniting the race for size in the emerging new financial landscape. Already, the top four banks are intensifying strategies to remain dominant in the retail segment of the banking sector, which has remained increasingly attractive since the withdrawal of public sector funds from the sector by the federal government through its Treasury Single Account Policy (TSA).

Indeed, the ability of the banks to support businesses in the economy, especially SMEs would to a large extent be driven by the size of the balance sheet and the shareholders funds of the banks.

In terms of shareholders' funds, Zenith Bank still maintain the lead in Nigerian banking with N822 billion. It would be closely followed by the combined entity that would emerge from the Access-Diamond deal as their combined results as at the end of December 31, 2017, was a total of N738 billion; FirstBank has N678 billion and GTBank N625 billion in shareholders' funds. Other banks in the middle will now be under pressure to merge or acquire others for size and a brave new banking world emerges as the merger between Access Bank and Diamond has given the lenders N5.817 trillion in asset size as at December 31, 2017 and Access Bank would become the country's largest bank by asset size. It would be followed closely by Zenith Bank, whose total assets stood at N5.595 trillion as at December 31, 2017; FirstBank - N4.949 trillion and GTBank N3.351trilion, in that order.

Similarly, a review of the profit before tax in the banks showed that Zenith Bank still maintains the lead with N203 billion as at December 31, 2017. It was closely followed by GTBank at N200 billion and and UBA's N103Billion. Access Bank then follows at N80 billion (Diamond recorded a loss of N11.547 billion in the period under review). With the emerging new banking order, UBA is now under pressure to find growth in the market place if it is to belong to the Big Four.

No doubt, the Nigerian banking industry, in recent times, has witnessed relative improvement, but not without its attendant challenges. Obviously, the challenges in the global economy have either direct or indirect impact on the Nigerian economy and particularly, the banking sector, which is the lifeblood of the economy.

For instance, the vagary in the prices of oil at the international market has taken its toll on the bottom-line of some of the banks in the country.

Despite these challenges, the tier 1 banks have remained unruffled by the storms and still stand tall, towering above their peers. They control the chunk of the market share as well as in terms of profitability, assets and shareholders' funds. Among the four banks, they compete for the topmost position; they battle for the soul of the banking sector.

Zenith Bank

The audited statement of account and financial results of Zenith Bank as the year-ended December 31, 2017, showed that the bank made a profit before tax of N203.461 billion, a significant increase from N156.748 billion of the previous year.

Consequently, the bank reported a profit after tax of N177.614 billion, which represented a growth of 37.22 per cent over N129.434 billion in 2016. The bank's assets also grew to N5.595 trillion in the review year from N4.739 trillion of the previous year.

Shareholders' funds stood at N821.658 billion as at December 31, 2017, representing an increase of 16.64 per cent over N704.46 billion in the previous year.

GTBank

As at the year-ended December 31, 2017, the audited statement of accounts and financial results of GTBank revealed that it posted profit before tax of N200.242 billion, which represented an increase of 21.25 per cent over N165.136 billion in 2016. Profit after tax stood at N170.5 billion in the review year from N132.280 billion. The amount translated to growth of 28.89 per cent.

The bank's total assets grew to N3.351 trillion in 2017 from N3.116 trillion in 2016, while the shareholders' funds increased to N625.167 billion in the review year from N504.902 billion of the previous year.

FirstBank

For FirstBank, profit before tax stood at N56.825 billion as at December 31, 2017, having grown from N22.948 billion in the previous year. Profit after tax was N40.011 billion in the review year, a significant increase of 226.8 per cent from N12.243 billion. Asset grew to N5.236 trillion in 2017 from N4.736 trillion in the previous year. The bank's shareholders fund spiked to N678.192 billion in the review year from N582.575 billion in the previous year.

Access Bank

Access Bank recorded a profit before tax of N80.072 billion as at December 31, 2017 which dropped from N90.339 billion of the previous year. Also, profit after stood at N61.990 billion in 2017, having decreased from N71.439 billion. Besides, assets grew to N4.102 trillion in 2017 from N3.483 trillion in 2016, while the shareholders' funds also increased to N515.447 billion from N454.494 of the previous year. If the merger with Diamond Bank is finalized, these numbers would definitely change and may see the bank emerge as the largest bank in the continent in terms of customer base.

This does not include the value after the Diamond Bank acquisition, which is still in process. Following the acquisition, Access Bank Plc has obtained regulatory approvals for it to raise a fresh $250 million (N90 billion) tier II capital and has also obtained "no objection" from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to undertake a rights issue to raise up to N75 billion ($207 million) before the end of first quarter of 2019.

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