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By Dipo Olowookere

Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN) Chairman Emeritus Sir Sunny Nwosu has praised the board and management of Zenith Bank Plc for paying dividends to shareholders.

Speaking at the Bank’s 31st Annual General Meeting (AGM) held at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos on Wednesday 6 April 2022, he said investors are keen to add Zenith Bank shares to their portfolios have because they always pay dividends to shareholders.

He commended the financial institution for being consistent in paying dividends to shareholders, just like yesterday, crediting their accounts with N97.33 billion.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the Board’s proposed final dividend payment of N2.80 per share was unanimously approved, bringing total cash compensation for fiscal 2021 to N3.10 per share.

Another shareholder of the company at the meeting, Mr. Faruk Umar, President of the Association of the Rights of Nigerian Shareholders (AARNS), also applauded the bank for rewarding loyalty.

“The bank is doing very well. All key figures and indices have risen. And more importantly, while we were in the meeting, I was notified of my dividend being credited. That is very commendable.

“The management of the bank has been very effective; we thank Jim Ovia for the leadership he has taken, he has increased the dividend despite the economic hardship in the country and I believe GMD is doing very well.

“I commend the management and staff of the bank, including the board, and am very confident that this year will be very good for the bank,” he said.

business mail reports that Zenith Bank grew its gross revenues by 10 percent year-on-year from N696.5 billion in 2020 to N765.6 billion in 2021, despite a difficult macroeconomic environment exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic .

This was buoyed by a 23 per cent growth in noninterest income from N251.7 billion to N309 billion and a 2 per cent increase in interest income from N420.8 billion to N427.6 billion.

During the year, pre-tax profit also grew 10 per cent to N280.4 billion from N255.9 billion as a result of revenue growth and very strong management of the treasury portfolio which increased efficiencies and resulted in a decline in interest expense by 12 percent from N121.1 billion in 2020 to N106.8 billion in the current year. This further resulted in a 7 per cent increase in net interest income to N320.8 billion in 2021 versus N299.7 billion in 2020.

The lender was observed to increase its customer deposits by 21 percent to N6.47 trillion from N5.34 trillion last year, with both corporate and retail customers increasing.

A breakdown showed that retail customer deposits increased by N146 billion from N1.72 trillion in 2020 to N1.87 trillion in 2021, on the basis of a continued drive for retail deposits coupled with the strategic realignment of the Funding base has helped reduce funding costs from 2.1 percent to 1.5 percent in the current year.

Although operating expenses have risen 13 per cent, growth remains below inflation and the group improved its earnings per share (EPS) by 6 per cent from N7.34 to N7.78.

Also, Zenith Bank increased its total assets by 11 percent from N8.48 trillion in 2020 to N9.45 trillion in 2021, mainly due to growth in customer deposits.

With the steady recovery in economic activity, the group cautiously increased its gross loans by 20 percent from N2.9 trillion to N3.5 trillion, with a non-performing loan (NPL) ratio of 4.19 percent compared to 4.29 percent a year earlier.

Zenith Bank also recorded impressive liquidity and capital adequacy ratios of 71.6 percent and 21.0 percent, which remained above regulatory thresholds of 30 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

Commenting on the bank’s performance at the AGM, Ebenezer Onyeagwu, Group Managing Director/Chief Executive said: “If you look at the history of the bank over the years, Zenith Bank has always grown, and even during the pandemic, we have maintain a reasonably positive growth trajectory.

“Growth comes from using our digital capabilities to grow more businesses, simplify our service processes, make our processes more efficient, and handle customer complaints.

“In addition to developing new products, we are discovering new business areas, particularly in the retail segment, which generate significant revenues.”

He added: “To meet shareholder expectations, we have to work harder. The team is low key, hardworking, resilient and most importantly we have a very supportive Board of Directors that comes with excellent guidance.”

For his part, Zenith Bank Founder and Chairman Mr. Jim Ovia thanked shareholders for their unwavering loyalty which has enabled the bank to rise to the forefront of the financial services industry in the country and assured them of the bank’s consistent commitment to deliver superior value to them .

In recognition of its outstanding track record, Zenith Bank was named Best Merchant Bank in Nigeria at the World Finance Banking Awards 2021, Best Bank in Nigeria at the Global Finance World’s Best Banks Awards 2020 and 2021, Bank of the Year (Nigeria) by The Banker’s Bank of the Year Awards 2020 and Best in Corporate Governance ‘Financial Services’ Africa 2020 and 2021 by the Ethical Boardroom.

The bank was also named the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria by Banker Magazine’s Top 500 Banking Brands 2020 and 2021 and was named the Number One Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital in Banker Magazine’s 2021 Top 1000 World Banks ranking and Retail Bank of the Year at BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BOFI) Awards 2020 and 2021.

Similarly, Zenith Bank was named Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) at the 2020 ThisDay Awards and was a winner in four categories at the 2021 Sustainability, Enterprise, and Responsibility (SERAS) Awards (SERAS) Awards and held the distinction of ‘Best Company in Reporting” Home and Transparency”, “Best Company in Infrastructure Development”, “Best Company in Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment” and the coveted “Most Responsible Organization in Africa”.

Virginia C. Taylor