Amid predictions that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may trigger food shortages in Nigeria, Shareholders of FBN Holdings Plc have urged the bank to review its sectoral allocation to agriculture.
Specifically, the Former Secretary-General, Independence Shareholders Association, Adeleke Adebayo, said the bank’s provision for agriculture, which stood at 3.2 per cent in the 2019 financial year, needs to be reviewed to align with the current realities.
Adeleke, who spoke at the bank’s yearly general meeting, in Lagos, on Tuesday, also advised the bank to reduce the level of exposure in oil and gas sector in view of current oil prices and local deregulation.
He however applauded the bank for reduction in impairment charges as well as Non Performing Loans (NPLs), which stood at 9.9 per cent in 2019 against 24.7 per cent in 2018.
He, however, urged investors to take advantage of the current company’s price trading at a great discount to increase their stake.
Responding, the bank’s Group Managing Director, Urum Kalu Eke, assured the shareholders that FBN Holdings would continue to improve on its performance and NPLs in the years ahead.
Eke said loans given out in the last three years were within NPLs of less than one per cent, adding that the group’s commercial bank subsidiary had been cleaned and transformed.
He added that the commercial bank in 2019 paid dividend to the holding company for the first time in five years.
Speaking on its insurance subsidiary, Eke said the company has not sold the insurance business to anybody, but is still discussing with its partners, noting that its primary business was to invest or divest a business.
Eke said enhancement of shareholders’ value would remain paramount in any business decision, saying: “We will make full disclosure at the end of the decision, but whatever decision that will be made will be in the interest of shareholders and to strengthen the holding company.”.
FirstBank Chief Executive Officer, Dr Adesola Adeduntan, said the bank had invested heavily in technology and human capital to maintain leadership in the industry.
Adeduntan said the bank was a clear leader when it comes to electronic business, with large volumes of transactions in ATMs, USSD, and agency banking, among others, with about 23 per cent of the traffic on e-channels in Nigeria, controlled by the bank.
He Adeduntan said the bank remains the biggest lender to the agriculture sector and would continue to partner with the Central Bank of Nigeria to strengthen the sector.