By Itohan Abara-Laserian
Access Bank Plc has assured shareholders of sustained dividend payout and improved performance in the years ahead.
Mr Herbert Wigwe, Chief Executive Officer of the bank, gave the assurance while addressing shareholders at the 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM), on Friday, in Lagos.
Wigwe said that the bank was well positioned to achieve significant growth in profitability and pay higher dividend given its position in the banking industry today.
He said that Access Bank had a healthy capital adequacy ratio, a robust balance sheet and strong brand that would lead to a better performance in the years ahead.
Wigwe noted that the bank recorded a profit after tax of N106 billion in 2020, an increase of 13 per cent from N94 billion achieved in the corresponding period of 2019.
According to him, the bank recommended a final dividend of 55k per share for the year ended Dec. 31, 2020, bringing the total dividend to 80k having paid an interim dividend of 25k earlier.
Wigwe said shareholders should expect better dividend that would be sustained given the various strategies put in place to grow the business.
According to him, Access Bank is best positioned to maximise the identified opportunities in Africa on the back of a growing customer base and the move to a cashless economy.
“We have identified Africa to be a vast pool of opportunities with over 370 million unbanked adults.
“With $9.2 billion in remittances and cross border payments, 89 cities of over 1.3 billion inhabitants by 2025 and the overall African financial ecosystem.
“We also see opportunities coming from the new African Continental Free Trade Area, as it is expected to expand intra-Africa trade to 53 per cent by 2022.
“Also eliminate tariff on qualifying trade and increase financial flows,” he said.
Wigwe said that on the domestic front, Nigeria presents several opportunities due to its large population, huge payments and remittance flows, and emerging insurance market.
“To capture these opportunities, Access Bank will transition into a holding company structure.
“The structure will enable it tap into the market opportunities that are available in the regulated banking and consumer lending market, electronic payments industry and retail insurance market.
“Through the restructuring, we will create new product revenues without taking incremental risks for the enterprise, ensure diversification of earnings, and support outside of Africa,” he said.
He added they had commenced green field operations in Mozambique and completed acquisition of Transnational Bank and Cavmont Bank in Kenya and Zambia, respectively to strengthen and increase their market presence.
“Early 2021, we received regulatory approval for our proposed acquisition of Grobank in South Africa to give us inroad into largest economic block in Africa and one of Africa’s biggest markets.
“Our acquisition of Grobank will help strengthen our foothold in Southern African market, Africa’s largest economic hub and place us in a strong position to take advantage of Africa,” Wigwe said.
In her address, Chairman of the bank, Dr Ajoritsedere Awosika, said in 2020, the bank made several investments to strengthen relationships with its customers.
“By redefining our approach to customer service through streamlining our internal processes, and digitising about 30 per cent of customer journeys, we were able to improve on our customer experience.
“Also, we were able to manage our expenses in line with the target for 2020 despite double digit inflation and overall cost of running the enlarged enterprise.
“As a result, we achieved a Cost-to-Income Ratio of 63.4 per cent from 66.1 per cent in 2019.
“We worked hard to recover and dispose of a significant portion of our non-performing assets.
“With a decline in the portfolio of overdue loans, our asset quality improved across our retail and wholesale segments.
“Our capital and liquidity ratios were also well above regulatory limits with our capital adequacy ratio remaining strong at 20.6 per cent,” Awosika said.
Shareholders at the AGM commended the board and management for efficient service delivery.
Mr Eric Akinduro of Ibadan Zone Shareholders Association, commended the bank for sailing through the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring improved results that led to the declaration of 80k dividend.
Akinduro said the various acquisitions by Access Bank across Africa, showed that the institution was very strong and assured of shareholders continuous support.
Mr Sunny Nwosu of Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria said given the expansion drive, the bank was really aiming to play a leading role on the African continent.
According to him, it is a good development that will lead to better returns for shareholders and other stakeholders going forward. (NAN)