Thoughts on Nigeria’s Next Biggest Bank

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Access Bank Plc announced recently of a signed memorandum of Agreement with Diamond Bank regarding a potential merger. This is apparently on the back of a competitive process undertaken by Diamond Bank to select a preferred bidder.

This deal is impressive and should potentially create Nigeria’s largest bank.

Here are some thoughts on the potential merger.

Big Premium but, still well below book value

At N3.13 per share, Access are paying 260% premium to Dec 13, 2018 share price of N0.87 for Diamond Bank. At 3Q18, Diamond Bank had total equity of N221,609.5m, which was N9.57 per share. So, at N3.13, the bank is being bought at 0.33x book.

Size matters…

What will this mean in terms of size? This will clearly be the largest bank in Nigeria with 16% deposit share and 18% loan share –achieving Access Bank’s long term goal of becoming the biggest bank in Nigeria.

Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd.

…but will it deliver value?

Diamond Bank’s 9M18 annualized RoE was 1% and its cost/income ratio was 95.6%. On a positive note, this would suggest that the cost synergies could be high, but realizing these synergies will be tough.

…consolidation lessons learnt…..

While the Access Bank merger with Intercontinental Bank delivered on scale, it did not result in even half of what had been promised. Will be looking to how this merger delivers on both.

Huge cost base

On an annualised basis, Access and Diamond Bank will have a combined cost base of N300bn (+US$820m). FBN’s annual cost base is N234bn with 895 branches. Diamond Bank and Access will have a combined branch network of 675 branches – well below FBN. Note that both banks’ networks are concentrated in Lagos and urban centres and the CBN makes it very difficult to close branches down in Nigeria and thus it’s going to be a massive task cutting that down to size.

Some doubts over capital

At FY17, Access bank had N2,311bn of RWAs and Diamond Bank had N1,157bn of RWAs. So, with total FY17 capital of N420bn, Access Bank’s pro forma CAR would fall to 12% if it is acquiring Diamond Bank. However, if the accounting treatment of this deal is as a merger of equals, then its proforma FY17 CAR would be 18%. It would however appear that the CBN does not see any potential concern in and around this issue.

Asset quality red flags

What’s interesting is that Diamond are willing to sell despite the recent approval from the CBN reducing their CAR requirement from 15% to 10%. This, to us, indicates that the bank still has underlying asset quality issues. Unlike the Intercontinental transaction (where Access acquired a clean balance sheet thanks to the AMCON absorption), this transaction is likely to result in a higher NPL ratio for the combined entity. Don’t forget that Geotmeric Power is still a sizeable loan on Diamond Bank’s balance sheet.

Bigger picture

As in Kenya, it looks like the regulator does not have the capacity to resolve yet another bank failure putting the onus on private banks – i.e. tapping them for assistance. It’s not a big surprise that Access Bank is the chosen one (and will get extra brownie points in the process) – management have been close to the regulator over the last ten years and their ambition has always been to be the biggest bank in Nigeria. It’s unlikely, in our view, that GTB and Zenith showed any interest given their consistent strategy to grow organically vs M&A.

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Godwin Okafor is a Financial Journalist, Internet Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Naija247news Media Limited. He has over 16 years experience in financial journalism. His experience cuts across traditional and digital media. He started his journalism career at Business Day, Nigeria and founded Naija247news Media in 2010. Godwin holds a Bachelors degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos. He is an alumni of Lagos Business School and a Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists). Over the years, he has won a number of journalism awards. Godwin is the chairman of Emmerich Resources Limited, the publisher of Naija247news.

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