By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU

Until it was debunked by the two banks, it was in the rumour mill lately that Zenith Bank was considering acquiring the ‘Stallion’, the Union Bank for acquisition. But many people were still sceptical given what happened during the Access and Diamond banks merger episode when they continued to deny the speculations until it was formally announced.

However, since the Access and Diamond Banks’ merger, many industry experts believe that it would not be the last as the development has redefined the emerging trends in the sector, with the experts insisting that it is the only way ahead. It was not surprising that it turned out to be First bank bidding for Polaris bank and Heritage banks. This potential merger if consummated, will create the largest banking group in the continent and drastically change the face of banking in the country.

Age they say is nothing but a number but not when you are 126 and still relevant. First Bank Ltd, Nigeria’s oldest bank has in so many ways stood the test of time.

If there is any bank you can reference for experience when it comes to transformation and innovation from the second industrial revolution to what many see now as the fourth, then it is perhaps this bank. Innovate or die as they say.

Recent reports suggest the bank was considering an acquisition of Polaris and Heritage Banks respectively. The bank promptly issued a press release neither affirming nor denying that a deal was under consideration. However, it said enough to warrant a review of the consequences of taking yet another bold step in the bank’s ageless journey in survival.

Heritage Bank which began operations in 2012 after acquiring the license and structure of the old Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria is not new to controversy. In 2014 Heritage Bank did the unthinkable, it was announced by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) as the winner of the bid for the acquisition of the defunct Enterprise Bank.

Banking sources say the move is part of the recapitalisation process of Nigeria’s banking industry.

BusinessHallmark checks revealed that unfolding industry trajectory points to more mergers and acquisitions especially from the survival strategies of the struggling banks. According to them some banks in the sector are in precarious and dire strait and would require a strong suitor to revive and sustain. Some of these banks (names withheld) are only counting their days as independent corporate entities.

Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, while unfolding his vision agenda for the sector for his second term stated the need for a second consolidation exercise to raise the capital base of the banks because of the depreciation in the value of the naira against the dollar. Compounded by the weak nature of the capital market, banks are constrained to resort to new equities from the market.

Although some banks and other companies had pledged an organized development strategy, it is becoming increasingly unsustainable with the recent developments that make size the winner. In Nigeria today, the business turf is competitive and difficult, as businesses are looking to other means to succeed and stay competitive. In the business world, companies are bound to compete with one another to stay on top.

One of the ways to stay afloat in difficult times includes business merger and acquisition.

This platform offers companies an opportunity for corporate restructuring that plays an important role in corporate finance.

Just last week,  it was disclosed that the United Kingdom-based consumer products company, PZ Cussons, has concluded plans for the proposed sale of its Nigerian dairy business, Nutricima, to FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria Plc, an affiliate of Royal FrieslandCampina in the Netherlands.

This disclosure was made by the former in a statement issued last week. Though the financial details of the transaction have not been divulged by either of the companies, it was learnt that the deal has reached an advanced stage. In the past few years, the fast-moving goods, FMGs sector has been under attack and business downturn and this could be one of the ways to respond to it to refocus and turn the tide.

Nutricima, the diary arm manufactures and distributes beverages in Africa with a rich product portfolio that includes milk and yoghurt- based drinks such as Nunu, Yo, and Olympic. Under Nunu brand range, the company offers a broad range of powdered, evaporated and ready-to-drink (RTD) milk beverages, while under its Yo brand,  it has in offering yoghurt drinks, as well as an RTD yoghurt range.

Findings revealed that PZ Cussons had exchanged sale agreements of the assets associated with Nutricima’s business with FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria, which is an affiliate of Dutch multinational dairy cooperative Royal FrieslandCampina. As expected, the completion of the deal is subject to receipt of regulatory approvals in Nigeria.

Speaking to press on the proposed sale of Nutricima, Ms Caroline Silver, executive chair of PZ Cusson said that the deal was in line with the Group’s strategy and that it would enable it to deliver high margin earnings, amongst others.

“The proposed sale of Nutricima and the sale of Luksja are further steps forward under our ‘Focus, Scale and Accelerate’ strategy, as we continue to streamline the Group to focus investment on core Personal Care and Beauty brands. This will enable us to deliver higher-margin earnings, in geographies which can scale, and support the return of the Group to sustainable, profitable growth,” Silver said.

 

FrieslandCampina, through its WAMCO subsidiary, has a long history in Nigeria. It was incorporated in April 1973 as West Africa Milk Company Nigeria (WAMCO) and commenced operations in 1975. The company is an affiliate of Royal FrieslandCampina of The Netherlands, one of the largest dairy producers in the world.

PZ Cussons Nigeria Plc, on the other hand, is a subsidiary of Manchester-based PZ Cussons Holdings which owns controlling shares in the firm. It is also a publicly listed Nigerian manufacturer and distributor of consumer products such as detergents, toiletries, soaps, and home appliances.

It produces beauty and personal care, baby products, bath products, oral care, health care, fragrances, and skincare. Some of the popular products in its portfolio include soaps like Ava, Canoe, Elephant, Flourish, Joy, Morning fresh, Nunu and Premier, to name a few.

Meanwhile, BUA Group, a cement manufacturing giant in a bid to diversify its portfolio and stay competitive has announced its acquisition of majority shareholding in P.W.  Nigeria Limited – one of Nigeria’s largest construction, engineering and mining companies.

According to BUA, this was imperative to further deepen its investments in the infrastructure business in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Mr Abdul Samad Rabiu, the executive chairman of BUA Group, said, “This acquisition marks the beginning of the next phase of our medium-term strategy for our infrastructure business following the completion of the consolidation of our cement arm, BUA Cement, in January 2020.

“BUA’s acquisition of majority holdings in PW Nigeria Limited provides a prime opportunity to increase our investments in the entire value chain of the Cement,  Mining and Construction industry where we already have BUA Cement Plc, the second-largest cement company in Nigeria, as well as investments in other areas including mining, quarrying, construction, power and logistics amongst others.

“We believe P.W. Nigeria Ltd with its solid experience in building dams, roads, airports, water projects and other infrastructure projects in Nigeria provided a strong value proposition too difficult to ignore.”

Rabiu further averred a that as the country is gearing to improve infrastructural development in coming years, it became imperative for BUA to position itself strategically to support critical investments and government effort and unlock latent opportunities in the infrastructure development space.

This acquisition of P.W. Nigeria has naturally stretched BUA’s investments, leadership and capacity in the infrastructure space.

The company was initially established in 1948 in Ireland, and later began operations in Nigeria in 1974. P.W. Nigeria Ltd. has now over 45 years of experience working in Nigeria, and throughout the West Africa region. P.W. Nigeria Ltd. has an extensive modern fleet of construction equipment and a team of highly trained and professional staff.

The company admitted to a highly committed workforce. It says “We boast a diverse portfolio comprising mining, earthmoving, roads and bridges, airport runways, infrastructure development, water supply & sewage. These projects have not only helped grow local economies but also improved the quality of life for the communities and people in Nigeria.

Experts said 2020 has so far proved to be the year of acquisitions. And so far it is not only the real sector that is reaping bountifully from this acquisition armada. The agribusiness is also part of the new deal as the  Nigerian Agritech platform, Farmcrowdy had in January acquired a majority stake in Agro company, Best Food Farms ltd for an undisclosed amount.

The deal was jointly disclosed at CNBC Africa interview by  Emmanuel Ijewere, Chairman of Best Food Farms and Onyeka Akumah, CEO of FarmCrowdy. With the deal  Farmcrowdy now owns majority stakes in Best Foods (L&P) which provides wholesome livestock and locally grown agricultural produce at affordable prices. It is one of the largest meat processors in Nigeria with the capacity to process 120 – 200 bulls daily.

With this acquisition, Farmcrowdy will have the opportunity to keep growing its meat value chain with improved livestock production and processing to meet international standards. The company will serve over 50 meat markets across South-Western Nigeria, managing 100+ consumer endpoints.

According to Onyeka Akumah, Founder and CEO of Farmcrowdy, the AgriTech platform is set to enter the meat retail market with the launch of Farmcrowdy Meat Hubs in Q2 2020 to provide access to quality meat via technology, produced and traded by Farmcrowdy.

“Best Foods offers an exciting opportunity for Farmcrowdy to enhance its service in livestock production, processing, and supply,” explains Kenneth Obiajulu, Managing Director of Farmcrowdy.

“The acquisition supports Farmcrowdy’s strategy to lead the market and meet requirements to increase our supply of 45 cattle daily for consumption.”

Emmanuel Ijewere, the founder of Best Foods, said, “This deal with Farmcrowdy is a welcome development for us as it provides a major growth opportunity for both businesses. We are excited about the many possibilities.

“Ijewere will be joining Farmcrowdy as a member of the advisory board.

The company is Nigeria’s first digital agriculture platform that connects small scale farmers with smart farming techniques, quality farm inputs, and access to superior markets to earn a decent profit margin compared to profit earned from trading within their locality.

On the other hand, Best Foods is an agribusiness group with over 16 years of experience focused on livestock processing through Best Food Livestock and Poultry, farming through Best Food Fresh Farms, and marketing of agricultural produce through Naijapride, its wholesaler and Best Foods dairy and multi-concepts, the retailer.

It was established to provide wholesome livestock and locally grown agricultural products to consumers at affordable prices. Best Foods was also one of the early Nigerian partners with Shoprite, one of Africa’s largest food retailing franchises, to Nigeria

The construction giant Julius Berger Nigeria Plc had last November announced its diversification into the oil and gas industry by acquiring a 20 per cent equity stake in Petralon Energy Limited. The firm said that the acquisition was in line with its strategic partnership and joint investment agreement with Petralon Energy for the acquisition and development of oil fields in Nigeria.

It said Petralon Energy had offered 20 per cent of its equity share capital in Petralon 54 Limited for subscription to Julius Berger Investments Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Julius Berger. It added that the subscription was subject to engagement and the receipt of all, consents, and approvals.

The statement read in part, “The board of JBIL had approved the acquisition subject to the necessary engagements and receipt of all the requisite regulatory approvals and consents.

“The Investment has received ministerial consent but necessary engagements with key stakeholders regarding the Investment continues.”

Julius Berger said the share capital of JBIL was sufficient to fund the investment.

According to the statement, the investment is in line with the strategic goals of Julius Berger on diversification and would enable the acquisition of know-how and experience in the oil and gas sector.

Julius Berger said further details would be provided to the capital market as the transaction progressed.

Speaking on the flurry of acquisitions in corporate  Nigeria, Dr Olufemi Omoyele,  an analyst said “The development is not new, it is a strategy to be more competitive in the market as it provides an opportunity to increase market share in the area of the firm’s business.  First Bank is a first-tier bank and by the acquisition of Polaris and Heritage once the deal is done,  it becomes stronger and its strength will go up in terms of profits and assets.”