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WE'RE WORKING WITH CBN TO RECAPITALIZE AFRIBANK – ARAH

By NBF News
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Managing Director and Chief Executive, Afribank Nigeria Plc., Mr Nebolisa Arah, has reassured all its stakeholders of management's determination to deliver greater value, as measures capable of making the institution a lead player in the nation's financial services industry have already been put in place.

Arah, who unfolded a two-year development plan for the bank in a briefing at the weekend, said his new agenda for growth was firmly anchored on service excellence, IT integration, product innovation, cost leadership and value chain leverage among others, noted that the new management has actually refocused staff through effective capacity building initiative to contribute more to the group bottomline.

In line with this orientation, the Afribank boss pointed out that the management has moved the bank's business architecture to a level that can give shareholders and customers a high degree of comfort and confidence.

He noted for instance that the bank has been trying to optimize its resources in all segments of its business having introduced tremendous reforms at the retail corporate and consumer banking, in an effort to move it back to the league of leading players in the nation's financial industry. Commenting on the planned recapitalization of the bank, Arah said the board was already working with the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) and financial consultants engaged to design an appropriate template for the organization.

According to him, the financial consultants have already seen the bank through the initial due diligence while another round of reviews would soon be conducted before the presentation of final report to bank's stakeholders to enable them select their preferred core investors.

Arah, who noted that his major assignment at the bank was to continue to increase the confidence level and improve margins of return to shareholders, explained that the board of the bank was constantly being briefed on the progress made in the recapitalization exercise, stressing that CBN has been quite supportive in providing the enabling environment for owners of the bank to select prospective core investors based on due diligence report generated in the course of the reform.

He explained: 'Of the three most critical tests that a bank is often subjected to, capital test is a major one and that is why we believe we need to recapitalize as soon as possible to enable the bank do the kind of businesses it wants to do and deliver more value to its stakeholders.' He argued that with the impact of provisioning on shareholders fund, it would have been difficult for stakeholders to lay any claim to the shares of any of the eight banks without the CBN intervention, stressing that the process has raised the hope of investors in the institutions that the future could indeed be great.

The Afribank boss noted that the CBN's intervention has given shareholders of the bank some confidence and hope of sharing from the resources of the organization, as opposed to a process of liquidation where all stakeholders including depositors would be made to lose their investment and deposits. Mr Arah who noted that the process of restoring customer confidence and winning back depositors that left due to the August 14, 2009, has progressed very rapidly, assured shareholders of the bank that performance of the bank will be better in the years ahead as the bottlenecks impeding growth have been cleared.

Part of the results recorded over the period was the bank's engagement as one of the key players in the collective of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for various states of the Federation as well as its participation in the syndicated loan facility for MTN, the nation's leading mobile telephone service provider. Meanwhile, Afribank has succeeded in recovering a total of N65.5 billion debts owed it by customers. The Group Managing Director of the bank, Mr. Nebeolisa Arah, made this revelation on Friday at a media briefing held at the bank's headquarters.

Mr. Arah said that collection of loans has given the bank upgraded ranking. According to him, the bank is winning back top players in the market who deserted it as a result of the August 14 pronouncement by the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN. He said that the bank is on course with its recapitalisation processes more so as CBN has appointed financial advisers for the institution.

'The bank has gone through the process of detailed due diligence. After consultation with the stakeholders, it will select who the investors should be. The ability of Afribank to contribute among the consortium that doled money to MTN is an indication that the bank has improved considerably,' he said.

The result of the bank for the first quarter of the year 2010 shows that the bank posted a profit before tax of N1.99 billion. The figure is an improvement over the N40 billion recorded in the comparable period of 2009.

However, the Bank Group recorded droppings in its gross earnings from N30.887 billion in 2009 to N25.099 billion in 2010 while the bank hitherto at N28.078 billion in 2009 shed some weight to close at N23.506 billion in 2010. This shows that the bank realised the profit from N25 billion gross earnings in three months with strong prospects of better returns in the financial year.

Mr. Arah further said that the return to profitability of the bank as at March 2010 compares with a loss of N39 billion in the corresponding period of last year. This, he said. confirms the success of the initiatives of management since the commencement of the turnaround program last year.