Shareholders of Access Bank Plc have approved payment of a total dividend of N23.1 billion as cash payouts for the 2019 business year amid commendations for the impressive performance of the bank.
At the 31st annual general meeting (AGM) of Access Bank in Lagos, shareholders applauded the board of directors, management and staff of the bank for the impressive performance in the 2019 financial year. The meeting, which was held by proxy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, had three leaders of various shareholders’ association present.
Shareholders approved payment of N14.22 billion as final dividend for the 2019 business year in addition to interim dividend of N8.89 billion earlier paid by the bank, bringing total dividend for the year to N23.11 billion.
With this, shareholders will receive a final dividend of 40 kobo per share in addition to interim dividend of 25 kobo per share, representing a total dividend per share of 65 kobo. The dividend per share of 65 kobo represents an increase of 30 per cent on total dividend of 50 kobo per share paid for the 2018 business year.
Key extracts of the audited report and accounts for the year ended December 31, 2019 showed that the top-line rose by 26.1 per cent while pre-tax profit rose by 11.8 per cent. The top-line performance was driven by a leap of 40.9 per cent in the bank’s core banking interest income.
Gross earnings rose to N666.75 billion in 2019 as against N528.74 billion recorded in 2018. Profit before tax increased from N103.2 billion in 2018 to N115.4 billion in 2019. Profit after tax improved from N94.9 billion to N97.5 billion.
The balance sheet showed a stronger market share as customers’ deposits rose by 65.9 per cent from N2.56 trillion to N4.26 trillion. Total assets jumped from N4.95 trillion in 2018 to N7.15 trillion in 2019. Shareholders’ funds also increased from N482.64 billion to N601.66 billion.
Sir Sunny Nwosu of Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Mr. Owolabi Peters of Integrated Shareholders Association of Nigeria and Mrs. Bisi Bakare of Pragmatic Shareholders Association of Nigeria agreed that despite the challenging operating environment, Access Bank recorded improved results and also rewarded shareholders with good a dividend that is very timely given the difficulties created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nwosu said Access Bank had a good foresight by merging with defunct Diamond Bank Plc, noting that the professional and seamless manner with which the integration was done should be commended.
According to him, the future remains very bright for all shareholders considering the synergy the merger has brought to the bank and the expertise the management and staff continued to deploy to ensure Access Bank maintains a leading role in the retail banking space.
Nwosu also commended the leading roles being played by Access Bank in the private-sector led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), which is supporting the Federal Government to fight the pandemic.
Bakare noted that unlike some of its competitors, Access Bank has recorded increased profits in the past three years noting that shareholders have confidence in the board and management to continue to deliver improved performance going forward.
Group Managing Director, Access Bank Plc, Dr. Herbert Wigwe, said the strength of the bank’s performance reflected a growing franchise supported by digital capabilities and improving customer service touchpoints.
He noted that the bank’s retail business gained momentum, leveraging opportunities in key sectors to consolidate market share dominance through its digital loans while the wholesale business also continued to soar in the year, following intense marketing drive and continued investment in the sector to deliver stronger synergies.
Wigwe said the merger with Diamond Bank produced a truly diversified institution with remarkable retail presence and solid wholesale market share.
“This has propelled us towards achieving our five- year strategic objectives to create the largest bank in Nigeria by total assets as well as largest in Africa by customer base with over 36 million unique customers across the network.
Using an agile approach and with strong dedication, we have achieved a significant milestone in financial services on the continent whilst delivering the fastest and most seamless customer Day 1 integration globally,” Wigwe said.
According to him, with the emergence of the new entity, the bank is well- positioned to cater to the retail business through a broader reach and product offerings tailored to individual customer needs and delivered efficiently.
“Access Bank is now a tier one retail banking franchise with strong digital payments capabilities and benefiting from a diversified business mix,” Wigwe said.
He said the bank was already addressing the issue high operating expenses and taking drastic measures to ensure that expenses are reduced significantly, adding the effect would be felt mostly in the second, third and final quarter of 2020.
On how the bank is running its business in the COVID-19 period, Wigwe assured that the bank has put in place a robust business continuity process enough to sustain the bank’s performance going forward.
“Access Bank was well prepared for the COVID-19 early enough and created ways of working from home and working with our customers. We set up links with our customers and many ways of reaching out to our customers three or four times in a day.
This happened even before we started working with the larger society and enabled us to start fighting this pandemic. So Access Bank has put a system in place and now working with CACOVID to make sure that everyone knows what he is doing,” Wigwe said.