Access Holdings after-tax profit surges as revenue touches record N2.6trn

Nigeria’s biggest lender, Access Holdings reported a fourfold acceleration in net profit that took the bottom line to an unprecedented peak of N619.3 billion last year, according to the financial services group’s audited accounts issued Wednesday.


The jumbo climb in after-tax profit resulted from a dramatic improvement in gross earnings, which advanced 87 percent to N2.6 trillion, also a record level.


The feat was recorded during the organisation’s last financial year under the leadership of Herbert Wigwe, the shrewd CEO who died in the US last month after years on the front lines of the group’s aggressive mergers & acquisitions push in and outside Nigeria.


The new record now makes the company Nigeria’s biggest public company by revenue, confining the previous holder of the crown, MTN Nigeria, to the pillion seat.


Higher revenue for Access Holdings, whose core business involves lending, rode on the wave of elevated monetary policy rates from the central bank, which, reaching 22.75 percent during the year, gave banks more liberty to charge more on loans.


Net interest income, a profitability metric accounting for the difference between how much banks earn from interest-bearing assets and what they incur in borrowing funds, was N694.5 billion, nearly double that of the preceding year.


In addition to operating profit and credit quality, the corporation pruned the cash set aside to cover problematic loans whose chances of getting repaid have been endangered by recurrent defaults by 29.5 percent to N139.5 billion.


Access Holdings, with tentacles in commercial banking, pensions, consumer lending, insurance, and payments, has footprints in at least fifteen markets, mostly in Africa, apart from Nigeria.


The lender reported N628.9 billion in fair value and foreign exchange gain compared to N335.5 billion a year earlier after a slide in the neighbourhood of 70 percent in the value of the naira boosted its dollar earnings in local currency.


Pre-tax profit stood at N729 billion, advancing from N167.7 billion.


Total comprehensive income came to N1 trillion after adding windfall gains, notably an unrealised foreign currency translation income of N481.1 billion, to post-tax profit.


Unrealised foreign currency translation income derives from gains made after converting the transactions of the foreign subsidiaries of a parent company into local currency.


Nigerian banks, a good number of which greatly profited last year from a weaker naira that swelled up their foreign exchange gains on conversion to local currency, will not be able to reward shareholders with a slice of the jackpot after the Central Bank barred them this month from using “such FX revaluation gains to pay dividends or meet operating expenses.”


Access Holdings, in a separate statement on Wednesday, announced a final dividend of N1.80 per share after paying N0.30 per unit in an interim dividend, meaning a payout of N74.6 billion for the year is on the horizon.


Shares in the lender had risen 2.8 percent to N23.75 per unit as of 10:48 WAT in Lagos after the news reached the public.


So far this year, Access Holdings has underperformed the NGX Banking Index, which tracks the performance of the banking sector, focusing on the most liquid and the most capitalised stocks. While it has returned -0.22 percent year-to-date, the latter has yielded 10.7 percent.


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