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Local bond market attracts $6b, says CBN

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THE successful conduct of the general elections is rubbing off positively on investments, with the inflow of over $6 billion into the local bond market.

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele described the foreign capital inflows to the bond market as an indication of the continued investors’ confidence in the strength of the economy.

The CBN boss, who spoke yesterday at the BusinessDay Post-Election Economic Agenda Conference in Lagos, also set a post-election agenda for the nation’s monetary policy. The current policy stance of the bank is expected to continue while inflation is estimated to rise to 12 per cent and moderate thereafter.

Emefiele said the Nigeria bond market remains one of the most attractive investment destinations – In Bloomberg’s Emerging-Market Local-Currency Government Bonds index, which covers major emerging markets, including Nigeria, South Africa and Argentina.

He said Nigeria’s bond continue to top the chart due to the stability of the Investors’ & Exporters’ Forex rate and the yields being high by emerging-market standards.

Investors, Emefiele said, are sure that they can exit their positions if they want, which has been crucial in driving other investors into the market.

Emefiele hinged the monetary policy stance of the bank on rising inflation expectations.

He, however, noted that the bank would adjust the policy rate in line with unfolding conditions and outlooks. Just as in the previous year, he said the Bank would continue in its drive to ensure that the policy interest rate is set to balance the objectives of price stability with output stabilisation.

The CBN boss also explained that since the establishment of the I&E Window in April 2017, the country has recorded about $35 billion in autonomous inflows through the window alone.

He said: “As a result, exchange rate pressures eased considerably across all markets as the rates converged to about N360/$ and the distortive premium almost eliminated. At the Bureau De Change (BDC) segment, we saw a significant appreciation of the naira from over N525/$ in February 2017 to about N360/$ today. Rates at the I&E window also appreciated from nearly N382/$ in May 2017 to just over N360/$.”

On the exchange rate policy, he said the bank, despite the expected pressures from the volatility in the crude oil markets, will maintain its stable exchange rate over the next year.

“Gross stability is projected in the foreign exchange market, given increased oil production and contained import bill”, he said.

Emefiele expressed optimism that the country’s Balance of Payments would remain positive in the short-term, adding that the current account balance could improve further if oil prices continued to recover. He assured that this would be “supported by improved non-oil performance as diversification efforts begin to yield results to reduce undue imports.”

Warning that the issues that led to the economic crisis between 2015 and 2017 remained visible, Emefiele stressed the need to significantly increase the country’s policy buffers, including fiscal measure, to increase its external reserve. He also reiterated the need to diversify the revenue structure of the Federal Government, in order to reduce dependence on direct proceeds from the sale of crude oil.

He further advised that cheap financing be provided to boost local production of priority goods in critical sectors of the economy in order to reduce reliance on foreign imports.

He also used the platform to highlight the efforts made by the CBN in the past five years in monetary policy and development finance, disclosed that the weakening of the Naira impacted the balance sheets of domestic banks.

However, he said the bank took some measures such as monitoring the financial position and performance of supervised institutions and the assessment of the risk profile and governance management practices of banks, to guarantee financial stability.

He listed other efforts carried out by the Bank to ensure financial system stability and the promotion of sustainable economic development to include the establishment of the investors and exporters’ window; conservation of foreign exchange through the restriction of access to foreign exchange on 43 items; and increased lending to the agricultural and manufacturing sectors.

The governor, while soliciting continued support for the policy measures that restrict import of items that could be produced in Nigeria as well as increased penalty for smuggling of restricted items in Nigeria, expressed optimism that the Nigerian economy in post-May 2019 will witness growth and reduced unemployment.

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Q1 2019: Zenith Bank sustains market dominance with improved profitability

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In the first quarter ended 31 March 2019, Zenith Bank Group recorded improved numbers across key metrics, driven by a solid performance in all business segments. This resulted in a Profit before Tax (PBT) of ₦57 billion, representing a 6% growth over the ₦54 billion achieved in the corresponding period in 2018. The Group’s on-going commitment to cost optimisation on the income statement and statement of financial position ensured earnings per share increased by 7% to ₦1.60 compared to Q1 2018.

The growth in net interest income and operating income by 23% and 1% respectively mitigated the decline in gross earnings. The effective management of cost-to-income ratio, cost of funds and cost of risk offset top-line declines to deliver an enhanced operating income in the period.

Our risk and asset quality continues to improve as cost of risk dropped significantly by 52% from 0.9% in the prior year to 0.4% for the period. This was achieved as impairment charges declined by 54% (₦2.5 billion year on year reduction). Our cost of funds also improved, declining by 25% from 4% in Q1 2018 to 3% at quarter-end. This was supported by a 22% decrease in interest expense of ₦10 billion over the same period, affirming the Group’s robust treasury and liquidity management. Our prudent cost management led to a 5% decline in our cost-to-income ratio by 5% from 53.3% in 2018 to 50.9% in the period with an absolute reduction in operating expenses by ₦2.3 billion year-on-year.

The Group’s retail franchise continues to increase as retail deposits grew by N80bn between December 2018 and March 2019 representing a 9% growth notwithstanding the fact that total customer deposits dropped marginally by 3%. The drop in customer deposits was as a result of rebalancing of the deposit mix as expensive purchased deposits were forgone in favour of cheaper and stickier retail deposits.

The volume and value of transactions across our electronic and digital platforms continue to grow as new customers are being acquired. Our balance sheet continues to strengthen as liquidity ratio is at 66.7%, loan to deposit ratio closed at 43%, and capital adequacy ratio ended the period at 25% respectively and remain above the relevant regulatory thresholds as at 31 March 2019.

Going into the rest of the year and with improving economic fundamentals, we are confident of delivering value to all our stakeholders on our commitments even as we create more opportunities for businesses by supporting them through selective risk asset creation. We shall continue our investments in the retail segment of the market as we consolidate our leadership position in the corporate segment while maintaining a strong balance sheet.

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Keystone Bank, others partner Mojec to roll out prepaid meters

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L-R: Head, Personal Banking, Wema Bank Plc – Mr. Abiola Afolayan; Chairman, Mojec International Limited, Mrs Mojisola Abdul; Managing Director, Mojec International Limited, Ms. Chantelle Abdul; Executive Director, Corporate Bank & South Directorate, Keystone Bank Limited, Yemi Odusanya and Group Head, Retail & SME, Unity Bank Plc, Mr. Olufunwa Olugbenga Akinmade at a press conference and signing of the Memorandum of Understanding ceremony between Mojec and the partner banks on the roll out of prepaid meters, held in Lagos on Monday, April 15, 2019.

Mojec Meter Assets Management Company, a subsidiary of Mojec International Limited, has announced partnership with Keystone Bank Limited and other leading banks in Nigeria to provide retail financing for rollout of prepaid meters to its customers within the coverage area of its partner Distribution Companies (DISCOs) across the country.

This is a major step ahead of the commencement of the much-anticipated Meter Asset Providers (MAP) scheme.

The partnership announcement was made at a press conference and Memorandum of Understanding signing ceremony held in Lagos on Monday, April 15, 2019 between Mojec and the partner banks. The partner banks include Keystone Bank, Unity Bank, Zenith Bank, Polaris Bank, First Bank, Wema Bank, Sterling Bank and First Option Micro-finance Bank.

MAP is a scheme approved by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) through a regulation meant for the provision, supply, installation and maintenance of end-user meters by Meter Asset Providers with a view to fast-tracking a closure of the metering gap and end estimated billing in Nigeria.

Speaking at the event, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mojec International Limited, Ms. Chantelle Abdul disclosed that the company was determined to bridge the metering gap in the power sector by ensuring provision of top-quality electricity meters to consumers in Nigeria.

“Now that MAP is here, Mojec is once again blazing the trail in the provision of high-end quality pre-paid meters to consumers, helping to reduce the financial burden estimated electricity billing is putting on electricity consumers,” Abdul said, noting that Mojec as a company has invested a lot of resources, positioning it as best suited to meet the metering needs of all consumers within the coverage of its partner DISCOs.

She further explained that Mojec would be partnering with eight DISCOs including, Ikeja Electric, Eko DISCO, Abuja DISCO, Kano DISCO, Enugu DISCO, Jos DISCO, Ibadan DISCO and Kaduna DISCO covering about 20 states of the federation.

In his remarks after the MoU signing, the Acting Managing Director/CEO, Keystone Bank Limited, Mr. Abubakar Danlami Sule, represented by Mr. Yemi Odusanya, Executive Director, Corporate Bank & South Directorate shared the bank’s driving motivation for the partnership. “The importance of energy in the growth of businesses and for the livelihood of homes in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized.

“Energy cost is by all standards the major cost line in most homes and businesses.

“The scheme is set to eradicate the unnecessary prevalence of estimated billing which deprived the national economy of funds which otherwise could be deployed into other productive use.

“We are therefore excited to be part of this initiative to bring electricity to homes and businesses at the most prudent cost, putting households and business in control of their expenditure pattern.” He concluded.

Keystone Bank is a technology and service-driven commercial bank offering convenient and reliable solutions to its customers.

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CBN boosts Forex market with another $210 million

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The interbank segment of the Foreign Exchange Market has received a boost of $210 million from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) following sales concluded on Tuesday, April 16, 2019.

According to figures obtained from the Bank, authorized dealers in the wholesale segment of the market were offered the sum of $100million. Similarly, the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) segment received the sum of $55 million, while customers requiring foreign exchange for invisibles such as tuition fees, medical payments and Basic Travel Allowance (BTA), among others, were also allocated the sum of $55 million.

The Director, Corporate Communications Department, Mr. Isaac Okorafor confirmed the transactions and disclosed that the effort of the Bank had helped to reduce exchange rate pressures across all segments of the market. According to him, the stability of the exchange rate underscored the level of confidence investors and the public had in the Naira.

It will be recalled that the Bank, at its last intervention on Friday, April 5, 2019, injected the sum of $247.8 million and CNY34.8 million into the Retail Secondary Market Intervention Sales (SMIS) segment.

Meanwhile, the Naira on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, exchanged at an average of N360/$1 in the BDC segment of the market.

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