Why foreign investors should turn to Nigeria – VFD GMD

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By  Olawunmi Ashafa

Mr Nonso Okpala, the Group Managing Director of VFD Group, an investment firm that focuses in the real sector, says the company plans to source for more capital beyond the shores of Nigeria.

Okpala disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Lagos.

NAN reports that the VFD Group was listed on the Main Board of Nigerian Exchange Ltd. (NGX) on Oct. 6.

According to him, the listing of the group on the NGX will provide the platform for the firm to achieve the target of sourcing for funding beyond Nigeria.

Okpala said that the company’s current position on the exchange would also help it to build the requisite trends and reputation needed for such target.

“It will assist the firm to enjoy more visibility, establish elaborate track-records and get more attention from the public investors,” he added.

NAN recalls that the listing of VFD Group’s shares added more than N45 billion to the market capitalisation of NGX, further boosting liquidity in the Nigerian capital market and providing opportunities for wealth creation.

The management of VFD Group Plc had said it projected N300.61 billion in total assets by 2025 and N5.83 billion dividend payout to shareholders in the same period.

Recalling how the company came into existence 14 years ago with 35 friends who came together as shareholders, Okpala said that the pioneers knew from the inception that the company would be listed on the stock exchange in no time.

He said the group also recognises the positive impact of technology on business operations and believes in utilising these advantages to foster the growth of robust companies.

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According to him, access to capital is also a significant consideration for VFD Group which strives to capitalise on such opportunities.

Okpala noted that the company’s strategic approach, commitment to innovation and alignment with young talents had made it an attractive investment option in Nigeria’s emerging market.

He highlighted the importance of acquiring long-term funds for developmental purposes such as infrastructure building and nurturing companies from inception to maturity.

These funds, he said, are considered relatively cheap and provide opportunities for growth and profitability, while emphasising the group’s track-record, skill sets, leadership and industry knowledge, making it capable of effectively utilising such funds.

Okpala said the management of the company saw opportunities in the new ways of doing things, hence its listing on the exchange at a period that the Federal Government embarked on liberalisation of the currency and fuel subsidy removal which were considered as economic challenges.

He added that the company was leveraging these changes and the potential of technology to build stronger companies.

“We are not talking about bank debt, short-term loans, hot money, but long-term funds that are relatively cheap and can be directed towards developmental roles, be it in infrastructure building or a company from inception to maturity.

“Those are the kind of funds that we want. We believe we have the track-records, skill sets, leadership and industry know-how to run such companies to profitability and access to long-term capital suited for developmental growth. This is what we thought we needed to address.

“So, there is no better time to take the step than to do it now.

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“We have self-inflicted adherence to governance more that most companies. We have strong leadership levels, bench of very smart and strong proven leaders in our group as well as young professionals,” Okpala added.

He, however, noted that the opportunities from such expansion would be subject to the kind of funding accessible.

The chief executive officer said that with 14 years of existence, the group had remained bullish with market infrastructure through the use of technology and fintech, due to Nigeria’s population and the difficulties of navigating the business environments

“From a logistical stand of point, technology is important and you can understand why someone will embrace digital banking if the option is for him to go through traffic.

“So, we think from a lifestyle perspective; fintech and technology remain key areas for us to keep exploring.

“Our model is that one can easily replicate whatever you do successfully in Nigeria and in many African countries. That’s why we are exploring the model we have in Ghana.

“We are also bullish in real sector, hospitality and lifestyles.”

He also said that one of the clear-point by the group was the plan to upgrade one of its investee companies, Abbey Mortagage, from a mortgage to commercial bank.

Okpala explained that another step to be taken by VFG Group is to pay closer attention to the insurance sector, saying that it complements the other investments by the company, therefore leading to an ecosystem needed in place.

“From a general standpoint, we have talked about an ecosystem being central to our plan as VFD Group, and that ecosystem is based on the fact that we are exposed to different companies which have cross-selling opportunities and collaborative potentials.

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Okpala, who said that having an ease of doing business remained imperative for the economy to continue to prosper, noted that conflict resolution was equally necessary.

He said that the ease of resolving conflicts with respect to rule of law is important to any business and transactions.

“We have a lending background as our core. We also have interest in lending space, mortgage and Vbank.

“One of the things we have realised is that it is always difficult to close it on a transaction, especially when you give out to debt. It is also, by extention, difficult when there is a contract failure,” he said.

On sustainable dividend policy and attracting more investors, the group managing director said the most central core value of the VDF is to always be empathetic to investors.

“We treat investors the way we want to be treated. Our destiny is tied to the destiny of other investors, be it in retails, high-networth of individuals or institutional investors.

The objective is to continue to work hard to make some sufficient funds and distribute returns and investment forward in the interest of the company.

To ensure that corporate governance is adhered in managing the group, Okpala said a succession plan had been put in place since fives years ago.(NAN)

Edited by Ephraim Sheyin

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