Nigerian Banking Tycoon Jim Ovia Loses $64 Million As Zenith Bank Shares Plunge

Nigerian business Jim Ovia has lost close to $64 million in paper net worth over the last 6 months as the stock price of Zenith Bank, the tier-one Nigerian commercial bank where he is the largest shareholder, shed 33% in value within that period.

On the 8th of February this year, Zenith Bank was trading at a share price of N24.4 ($0.06). However at the close of trading on Thursday, its share price had dropped to N16.35 following consistent daily losses over the past few weeks. Ovia, who is the founder, chairman and largest shareholder of the bank with a 9.4% stake, has seen the value of his 2.94 billion shares drop from $200 million, to $136 million.

The last few months have been a bit of a disaster for many companies listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. The stocks of several blue-chip stocks such as Zenith Bank, Dangote Cement, Transcorp and United Bank of Africa among several others have hit one-year-lows as foreign portfolio investors who dominate the equities market have been pulling out funds from the Nigerian capital markets while waiting for policy signals that could lift growth in the economy several weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari won re-election.

“Foreign investors are not exactly complicated. All they are looking for a broader catalyst like government policy or macro announcement that suggest growth for the economy is becoming better. Buhari’s government has been slow in providing a coherent economic policy that will give foreign investors some sort of comfort, so they are taking to the hills,” says Ademola Adeleke, an Abuja-based stockbroker.

Jim Ovia, 65, is the founder of Zenith Bank, one of the largest and most profitable commercial banks in Nigeria. He is the chairman and largest individual shareholder. Apart from his shareholding in Zenith Bank, Ovia is one of Nigeria’s largest property owners. In 2015 he featured in FORBES’ ranking of Africa’s 50 Richest with a fortune that was estimated at $550 million at the time.

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