BY EMEKA EJERE
Shareholders of FBN Holdings Plc, on Tuesday, approved a total dividend of N16.15 billion declared for the financial year ended December 31, 2020.
The endorsement took place at the company’s ninth Annual General Meeting held by proxy in Lagos.
The dividend, payable on April 28 to eligible shareholders translate to 45k per share, compared to 38k per share paid in the corresponding period of 2019.
Speaking at the meeting, Founder, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Mr Sunny Nwosu, commended the company for the enhanced dividend declared for the 2020 financial year.
Nwosu applauded the director’s, management and staff of the company for serving the shareholders diligently, in spite of the challenging operating environment and COVID-19 pandemic.
On unclaimed dividends and dormant accounts, he urged the Federal Government not to pursue policies that would discourage investors from investing in Nigeria.
Nwosu also enjoined registrars and company secretaries to map out strategies that would reduce the level of unclaimed dividends.
Also speaking, Mrs Bisi Bakare, National Coordinator, Pragmatic Shareholders Association of Nigeria, lauded the company for reducing Non Performing Loans (NPL) to 7.7 per cent from the 9.9 per cent posted in 2019.
Bakare said that the company had showed resilience in dividend payment and operational performance in spite of challenging times.
Mr Adebayo Adeleke, another shareholder, commended the board of directors and the management for the transformation recorded by the company.
Adeleke noted that the company had shown ability to contain cost and had been consistent in reducing the NPL.
Responding, Mr Urum Kalu Eke, the company’s Group Managing Director, told shareholders that the company was well positioned to pay higher dividends in the years ahead.
“We are well positioned to begin to pay higher dividends in the coming years.
“We will not relent in our leadership position; it goes beyond creating structure, what we are doing now is to build synergy, platforms and collaborations.
“We will continue to thrive to generate earnings and be in a position to pay dividend at a higher level.
“We are committed to restore this group as the foremost, the biggest institution in Nigeria and Africa and it will happen,’’ Eke said.
He said that the company was committed to progressive dividend every year, noting that it plugged back about N25 billion into the commercial bank subsidiary to boost its capacity.
He noted that the company’s profit after tax of about N90 billion during the year under review was an indication that the turnaround embarked upon over three years ago had continued to transform the group.
“For you to grow a loan book by 19.2 per cent in a challenged economy as we saw in 2020 is something that speaks to our faith and commitment to this economy.
“For us to increase deposit by 22 per cent to N5 trillion says a lot about the trust and safety that we offer to the public,’’ he stressed.
On NPL, Eke said that it would be reduced to a single digit within two to three years.
On unclaimed dividends and dormant accounts, he agreed that government must be careful in order not to discourage investments.
“We need to build confidence into the system so that people that are bringing money will see confidence that their capital and funds are protected,’’ Eke said.
He also assured the shareholders that the Finance Act stance on unclaimed dividends and dormant accounts had not commenced.
Also speaking, the Chief Executive Officer, FirstBank Group, Dr Adesola Adeduntan said that the bank had built the largest agency banking in Nigeria with more than 100,000 agents.
Adeduntan said that the bank went into agency banking to assist government in financial inclusion.
“We have created employment for at least 300,000 people thereby assisting government to address unemployment.’’