Zenith Bank: Retooling for better performance

0
401
ZENITH

Zenith Bank Plc was established in May 1990 and commenced operations in July of the same year as a commercial bank. The Bank became a public limited company on June 17, 2004, and was listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange on October 21, 2004, following a highly successful Initial Public Offering.

The bank boasts a shareholder base of more than half a million and is Nigeria’s biggest lender by tier-1 capital.

In 2013, it listed $850 million worth of its shares at $6.80 each on the London Stock Exchange.

Board/Management

Jim Ovia heads the board of 15 persons who direct the affairs of the Bank. Dame (Dr.) Adaora Umeoji, who is currently the Deputy Managing Director of Zenith Bank Plc will take over the business of daily running of Zenith Bank as the first female in that capacity from Dr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu who retires from the position of Group Managing Director on May 31, 2024.

With over 20 years of cognate banking and broad executive management experience, Dame Umeoji rose through the ranks to her current position.

Financials

Zenith Bank Plc recently announced its unaudited results for the first quarter ended 31st March 2024, with an impressive triple-digit growth of 189 percent in Gross Earnings, from N270 billion reported in Q1 2023 to N781 billion in Q1 2024. This is despite the challenging operating environment and tightening monetary policy stance.

The impressive growth in the topline also enhanced the bottom line, as profit before tax rose to N320 billion in Q1 2024, representing an increase of 270 percent from the N87 billion reported in Q1 2023.

Profit after tax equally grew significantly by 291 percent from the N66 billion reported in Q1 2023 to N258 billion in the current period.

Interest and non-interest income contributed significantly to the growth in gross earnings. Interest income grew by 155 percent from the N192 billion reported in the quarter ended March 2023 to N489 billion in the period to 31 March 2024.

The growth in interest income was due to the repricing of risk assets, owing to the increase in the central bank’s Monetary Policy Rate, which currently stands at 24.75 percent. The growth in net interest income is primarily due to the increase in fees and commissions as well as trading grains.

The Group reported an impairment charge of N56 billion for Q1 2024, up from N8 billion recorded in Q1 2023. This is attributable to significant growth in risk assets, primarily driven by the revaluation of its USD loans, which necessitated additional impairment on the bank’s foreign currency-denominated loans.

The cost of funds grew by 48 percent from 2.7 percent in Q1 2023 to 4 percent in Q1 2024 due to the high-interest rate environment, while interest expense increased by 157 percent from N71 billion reported in Q1 2023 to N182 billion in the period to March 2024. Notwithstanding the year-on-year (YoY) increase in interest expense, net interest margin grew by 20 percent from 6.9 percent in the 3 months ended March 2023 to 8.3 percent in the current period ending 31 March 2024.

Return on Average Equity and Return on Average Assets increased year-on-year (YoY) by 114 percent and 119 percent, respectively, due to improved profitability.

Gross loans, which are largely funded by customer deposits, grew by 30 percent from N7.1 trillion in December 2023 to N9.2 trillion in March 2024. Customer deposits also grew by 11 percent from N15.2 trillion in December 2023 to N16.8 trillion in March 2024, underpinning continued customer confidence in the Zenith brand. Total assets increased by 19 percent to N24 trillion within the same period.

The Group has consistently maintained all prudential ratios well above the minimum regulatory requirement. At the end of Q1 2024, Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) and Liquidity Ratio stood at 20% and 67 percent, respectively, demonstrating the Group’s ability to maintain a strong and liquid balance sheet.

FY 2023 review

In spite of challenging macroeconomic conditions coupled with economic headwinds, Zenith Bank Group achieved a remarkable triple-digit growth of 125 percent in gross earnings, from N945.6 billion in the previous year to N2.132 trillion in 2023.

This was driven by a 112 percent YoY growth in interest income and a 141 percent YoY growth in non-interest income.

Customer deposits grew by 69 percent, reflecting the bank’s market leadership and customers’ trust.

Operating expenses grew by 32 percent YoY. Total assets rose by 66 percent, largely due to growth in total deposits and the revaluation of foreign currency deposits.

Shareholders

Shareholders of Zenith Bank Plc, approved the proposed final dividend payment of N3.50 per share, bringing the total dividend for the 2023 financial year to NGN4.00 per share, with a total value of N125.59 billion, which is the highest dividend payout by any bank.

“The HoldCo structure presents an opportunity for us to unlock value for shareholders in terms of opportunity in other sectors beyond banking”

Analyst’s comment

Commenting on the bank, experts at Cordros Research said, “ZENITHBANK recorded remarkable performance in its funded income lines as trading gains drove non-funded income growth. Looking ahead in the year, we highlight that shareholders unanimously approving the bank to restructure into a holding company (Zenith Bank Holding Company Plc) on 26 April, poses significant upsides as the group can now diverge into evolving opportunities in the fintech space while strengthening its digital and retail footprint to drive profits for the banking subsidiary.”

Awards

Zenith Bank’s track record of excellent performance has continued to earn the brand numerous awards, including being recognised as Best Bank in Nigeria, for the fourth time in five years, from 2020 to 2022 and in 2024, in the Global Finance World’s Best Banks Awards; the Best Bank for Digital Solutions in Nigeria in the Euromoney Awards 2023, being listed in the World Finance Top 100 Global Companies in 2023; being recognised as the Number One Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital, for the 14th consecutive year, in the 2023 Top 1000 World Banks Ranking published by The Banker Magazine; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria, for three consecutive years from 2021 to 2023, in the World Finance Banking Awards; Best Corporate Governance Bank, Nigeria in the World Finance Corporate Governance Awards 2022 and 2023; Bank of the Year (Nigeria) in The Banker’s Bank of the Year Awards 2020 and 2022; Best in Corporate Governance’ Financial Services’ Africa, for four successive years from 2020 to 2023, by the Ethical Boardroom; Most Sustainable Bank, Nigeria in the International Banker 2023 Banking Awards; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria and Best Innovation in Retail Banking, Nigeria in the International Banker 2022 Banking Awards.

Also, the bank emerged as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria in the Banker Magazine Top 500 Banking Brands 2020 and 2021; Bank of the Year 2023 and Retail Bank of the Year for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022, at the BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards.

Similarly, Zenith Bank was named Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) at the ThisDay Awards 2020, Bank of the Year 2021 by Champion Newspaper, Bank of the Year 2022 by New Telegraph Newspaper, and Most Responsible Organisation in Africa 2021 by SERAS.

Outlook

Shareholders of Zenith Bank Plc unanimously approved the restructuring of the Bank to a holding company during a court-ordered Extraordinary General Meeting held virtually from Zenith Heights, Zenith Bank Plc, Victoria Island, Lagos, on Friday, April 26, 2024.

Commenting on the plan, Onyeagwu said, “The HoldCo structure presents an opportunity for us to unlock value for shareholders in terms of opportunity in other sectors beyond banking. The first part is Fintech, where we have already received the approval and the license from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which we are launching soon. It is going to be focusing on an area that we know has not been touched on by anyone. So it is more like us finding an open wide space where we can begin to operate, and with a HoldCo, what that means is that we have an opportunity to diversify our investment. We can begin to look at other business verticals that were restrained by the kind of authorisation we have. So, it presents a big opportunity for us to have a wider lens and scope in terms of what we can do. It will also position us to think of opportunities beyond Africa. We will be looking at key business verticals that have the potential to enable us to create value for shareholders.”

The Group says it is making progress on the planned capital raise to support future growth and is very optimistic about meeting the new minimum capital requirements in line with the CBN’s recapitalisation directive. As the Group accelerates migration to its new technology architecture and also transitions into a holding company, it remains poised to maximise value for all stakeholders.

Green flags

1. Approved Zenith Bank Holding Company Plc
2. Floating of a Fintech subsidiary
3. A positive outlook on recapitalisation
4. Robust shareholders’ reward

Red flag

1. Rising impairment charges
2. Increasing cost of funds.