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Banks embrace Islamic banking amid rising competition

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As competition intensifies in the banking industry, some conventional banks in Nigeria are veering into the provision of Shari’a-compliant banking products through “Islamic Windows”. In fact, one such lender recently announced that it plans to apply for a stand-alone Non-Interest Bank (NIB) license, writes TONY CHUKWUNYEM

 

Although the move generated quite some controversy, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) release of guidelines for the operations of Non-Interest Banks (NIBs) in the country in 2011 and its argument that interest-free banking would play a critical role in boosting financial inclusion seemed to have succeeded in keeping critics quiet. Indeed, by 11 November 2011, the aprx bank had issued its first license to a lender-Jaiz Bank- to operate as a non-interest bank.

 

It also during that year issued licenses to two conventional banks- Stanbic IBTC and Sterling Bank- to operate a window of Islamic banking.

 

But while Jaiz Bank commenced operations with three branches in Abuja, Kaduna and Kano states on the 6 January, 2012 and has since upgraded from regional to national operating license, allowing it to expand throughout the country, it has, to date, remained Nigeria’s only full-fledged non-interest (Islamic bank). This has led to speculation in some quarters that momentum with respect to the growth of Islamic banking in these parts has stalled.

Critics pointed out that while Islamic finance is rapidly expanding outside Africa, tripling in size between 2007 and 2014 and now having total assets of around $1.9trillion, according to available data, the sector was not doing so well in Africa despite the continent having a Muslim population of above 250miilion and the largest number of financially excluded people worldwide.

 

 

Sterling Bank plan

 

However, indications that this situation could be about to change emerged a few days ago, when the outgoing Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Sterling Bank Plc, Mr. Yemi Adeola, revealed that the lender had plans to seek a license for a stand-alone Non-Interest Bank (NIB) as soon as possible.

 

Adeola, who disclosed this during a courtesy call by the bank and formal introduction of its MD/CEO designate, Mr. Abubakar Suleiman to the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), said the decision was informed by the feasibility studies conducted by the lender, judging from the potential market and financial resources of customers expected to embrace NIB.

 

Interestingly, a week before this announcement, Sterling Bank had organized a one day public lecture themed: “Reducing Poverty and unemployment through Non-Interest Banking” which took place in the historic city of Kano.

 

According to the lender the lecture was part of its commitment to further deepen the awareness and public enlightenment of alternative finance or Non-Interest Banking (NIB) in Nigeria.

 

 

Shedding light on why the lecture was organised, the bank’s incoming CEO and Chief Host of the Lecture, Mr. Abubakar Suleiman, emphasised that the lender will continue to intensify efforts to sell its Alternative Finance offerings to customers and prospects while remaining a reference institution in the area of Non-Interest banking not only in Africa but globally.

 

In fact, Sterling Bank was in 2016 awarded the “Non-Interest Bank of the Year – Africa 2016”, for its Non-interest banking window, Sterling Alternative Finance by the “The European,” magazine at the publication’s Global Banking & Finance Awards held that year in London. Announcing the award, the bank noted that the Award was conferred on it, “based on its success story in the last three years coupled with its ability to use non interest banking contracts to structure transactions in the most unique manner.”

According to the lender, with about 200 branches offering non interest banking services, its coverage, which is widely considered one of the best in Africa, quality of staff, consultants and advisors such as Sheikh Abdulkader Thomas who belongs to several advisory boards globally also gave it an edge over competitors.

 

It stated: “Since 2013, we have achieved major milestones, which include a line of $30 million, from the Islamic Corporation for Development (ICD) and $25 million from the International Islamic Finance Trade Corporation (ITFC). Both institutions are members of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

 

In the same vein, the CBN has approved an array of innovative non-interest financial instruments for us in 2016, which will keep us ahead of industry performance.”

 

The ICD, a multilateral development financial institution, had in approving the facility for Sterling Bank, said it recognised the lender’s contribution to the growth of Islamic banking in Nigeria and Africa barely four years after it commenced operations. Industry watchers point out that Sterling Bank is making such a significant impact on the growth of Islamic banking in the country because the lender invested heavily in the material and human resources required to ensure that its non-interest banking operations attain the desired objective.

 

For instance, four years ago, the bank strategically selected Path Solutions’ iMAL enterprise Islamic banking and Investment system to support the launch of its non-interest banking window. In a statement at the time, the bank explained that the Path Solutions’ modular Islamic core banking system – iMAL will enable it to quickly introduce a diversified range of Islamic banking products and services and prepare its business for future growth.

 

Group head – Non-Interest Banking, Sterling Bank, Dr. Basheer Oshodi, stated then: “We have always strived to invest in state-of-the-art technology to provide our customers with cutting edge banking products and services.

 

Our decision to adopt a new core banking system for our new non-interest banking window is a significant step in this direction, as we firmly believe that a world-class technological infrastructure that could meet local regulatory and Sharia compliance requirements is integral to building customer confidence”.

 

He explained that Sterling Bank required a flexible and scalable system that could be integrated with ICS BANKS conventional banking solution and that could cover comprehensive areas such as Islamic Invest, Islamic Profit Calculation, Branch Automation and Administration, and SWIFT messaging. He also disclosed that as part of the overall selection process, Sterling Bank engaged leading independent global technology consulting firms to perform market research and evaluate and advise on latest technology.

 

According to him, during a rigorous three-month evaluation period, the bank considered several major IT providers with broad expertise in Islamic banking before signing the deal with Path Solutions for its iMAL enterprise Islamic banking and Investment system, which has proved to be the solution of choice for a large number of Islamic financial institutions in Africa.

 

SunTrust Bank Nigeria, ICD seal deal

 

Significantly, the number of banks in the country offering non-interest banking products was set to increase last year after SunTrust Bank Nigeria (SBN) and the ICD signed an agreement to establish a new non-interest banking window in Nigeria. Under the agreement, SunTrust Bank and Saudi-based ICD agreed to facilitate information and expertise exchange in order to setup a window that incorporates non-interest banking products and services in the country.

 

Commenting on the deal, the CEO/General Manager of ICD, Khaled Al-Aboodi, said: “We look forward to strengthening mutual efforts in establishing the non-interest window and move a step forward in achieving one of ICD’s main objectives to promote Islamic finance in our member countries.” In his remarks, SBN’s Managing Director/CEO, Muhammad Jibrin, said: “We realise the many benefits of our close collaboration.

 

By establishing the new window, we will diversify our banking offer and will attract investors not only from Nigeria but also from the Islamic Development Bank Group member countries, and we consider ICD as our strategic partner in those countries.” Aside from the lenders providing non- interest banking products, there are also several asset management and investment companies operating as Islamic finance entities in the country.

 

Last line

 

However, analysts argue that while Nigeria has a burgeoning market for Islamic financial products given the country’s over 70 million-strong Muslim population, non interest financial institutions in the country will not necessarily have an edge over their conventional, interest charging, counterparts.

 

As a financial analyst, Mr. Ben Ediohon, contended, “given the very high interest rates that the conventional banks charge, the non-interest banks clearly have an advantage. But they also face fundamental, structural difficulties. For instance, many projects are not bankable. Also, Islamic banks usually find it difficult offering long-term financing because their sources of funds are mainly short-term.”

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Stock market opens week bearish

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Trading activities on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) market yesterday opened this week on  the negative territory as the overall performance measures, NSE ASI and market capitalisation, both fell by 1.53 per cent.

 

The downswing according to market watchers, was due to profit taking by investors after recent bullish rally.

 

Consequently, the All-Share Index dropped by 651.09 basis points or 1.53 per cent from 42,638.83 index points last Friday to close at 41,987.74, while the market capitalisation of equities depreciated by N234 billion or 1.53 per cent to close at N15.067 trillion from N15.301 trillion.

 

Further analysis of the day’s trading showed that Linkage Assurance Plc topped the day’s gainers’ table with 9.09 per cent to close at 96 kobo per share, while Livestock Feeds Plc followed with five per cent to close at N1.05 per share. Fidson Healthcare Plc added 4.92 per cent to close at N4.69 per share.

 

On the flip side, PZ Cussons Nigeria Plc led the losers’ chart with a dip of 8 per cent to close at N23.00 per share. Lasaco Insurance Plc shed 6.06 per cent to close at 31 kobo per share. Enamelwa Nigeria Plc followed with 4.95 per cent to close at 22 kobo per share.

 

Market turnover closed negative as volume moved down by -64.80 per cent as against +32.62 per cent uptick recorded in the previous session. Skye Bank Plc, Diamond Bank Plc and FCMB Plc were the most active stocks that boosted market turnover while Zenith Bank Plc and Guinness Nigeria Plc topped market value list.

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Nigeria mulls 700,000 barrels daily oil output surge

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…envisages 250,000 barrels from local producers

 

Nigeria is planning an increase of 700,000 barrels a day in her oil production. Data from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources sighted by New Telegraph showed that indigenous producers from the country aim to pump almost 250,000 barrels per day additional crude by 2020 as part of a wider plan for the nation to lift output to 2.5 million a day.

“We are on course,” Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who confirmed the data, said in Abuja last weekend, just as he intimated newsmen of the goal to pump 2.5 million barrels a day by 2020. “Capacity-wise, the volumes are there. Infrastructure-wise we suffer a little bit in terms of being able to deliver.”

There are at least a dozen small to mid-sized Nigerian producers pumping between 5,000 and 100,000 barrels each day. Together, they plan to add incremental supply of at least 150,000 barrels a day this year. Aiteo E & P Ltd., Nigeria’s largest independent, didn’t immediately comment about its expansion plans. Shoreline Group, the third-biggest independent, the data showed, wants to double output by December with Seplat Petroleum Development Company, the second-largest, also intending to produce more.

” In all, the country’s total planned increase, a report adapted from the data showed, is 700,000 barrels a day. “Just over a third will come from the state-run Nigeria Petroleum Development Co., a third from independents, and the remainder from oil majors.

The expansion depends, among other things, on peace being maintained in the Niger Delta. A militant group said last month it would attack oil and gas facilities,” the data adapted by Bloomberg showed. “One probability is at least some of the extra Nigerian supply will end up feeding the Dangote oil refinery, the continent’s largest, which is due to start operating next year. While doing that would help rid Nigeria of its dependence on fuels produced overseas, it wouldn’t extricate the country from its commitments to OPEC.

“Back in 2016, Shoreline had to cancel a planned $500 million Eurobond. With oil prices rallying, the company is making a comeback. It agreed a $530 million deal with financiers led by Vitol Group, the world’s biggest independent oil trader, as it seeks to double crude output to 100,000 barrels a day by year end.

“It represents a massive vote of confidence in the future growth of our operations and of Nigerian upstream producers,” Kola Karim, chief executive officer of Shoreline, said in an interview.

“Shoreline’s progress mirrors that of other Nigerian independents.Seplat, said to be among companies bidding for Petroleo Brasileiro SA’s African oilfields, expects to ramp up drilling this year after output recovered from militant attacks and low prices, according to company statements,” the report said. Half a decade ago, these producers were hailed as the future of Nigeria’s production because of their potential to pump 40 percent of the OPEC member’s output. They had bought oilfields that hold at least a third of the West African nation’s 37.5 billion barrels of crude reserves from companies including Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Total SA, and Eni SpA. Their day may still come.

The OPEC deal is currently in place until the end of this year and global demand is rising fast. The International Energy Agency this month revised up its growth estimate for world oil consumption by 100,000 barrels a day, taking it up to 1.4 million.

“As the oil market rebalances in the years ahead, OPEC will have to lift its production cap,” Pabina Yinkere, an energy analyst at Lagos-based Vetiva Capital Management, said by phone, adding that a lot of extra Nigerian crude could be used to feed the Dangote refinery.

“Moves to raise production are in view of expected demand growth.” The oil producers in Nigeria are planning to add barrels at the same time as Nigeria participates in a global pact to restrict oil supply that’s being led by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-member nations including Russia. If any one country relents – and similar internal pressures are bubbling up elsewhere – then the entire deal could come under strain.

“If they can pump more in Nigeria, I don’t see why they wouldn’t,” Warren Patterson, a commodity strategist at ING Bank NV, said. “If you get Nigeria exceeding the cap, then you’re going to get others who pump a little bit more. The longer the deal goes on for, the more likely it’s going to fall apart.”

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2018: Experts predict vibrant real estate

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As oil prices stabilise at 17 per cent higher than 2017 average and direct foreign investment increases, experts see surge in real estate activities in 2018. DAYO AYEYEMI reports

 

Following improvement in the economy, things are beginning to look up in Nigeria’s real estate sector with market operators getting set to tap into the opportunities, which exist in various segments of the market.

They were, however, particular about the low and middle income residential, millennial and student accommodation sections. Apparently equipped with the dynamism of happenings in the economy, they stated that investors (both local and foreign) were prepared to launch into pockets of opportunities in real estate market. Investors’ hope has been further boosted by the latest Bismack Rewane-led Financial Derivative Company (FDC)’s report on review of third quarter of 2017, which showed that Foreign Capital Inflows (FCI) to Nigeria increased by 148 per cent to $4.15 billion.

This positive trend, analysts said, happened as a result of renewed investor confidence in the economy. Also, the experts noted that oil prices had climbed to 17 per cent higher than 2017 average, expressing confidence that if the situation persists, oil revenues might help mitigate consequences of capital flight.

Current development

This newspaper gathered that while some developers are entering into Joint Ventures (JV) with the government to provide affordable housing units for citizens, others are currently repackaging their products to attract financiers and buyers.

In exclusive neighbourhoods such as Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Lekki, where landlords can no longer wait without getting tenants and buyers for their dormant properties, they have been converting their vacant houses to smaller apartments such as one-bedroom, studio and condos to attract people in need of smaller accommodation. This innovation by landlords, according to experts, has caught the attention of working-class singles who want to live very close to their workplaces.

Experts’ view

Taking a look at what 2018 holds for the sector, experts, which comprised developers, institutional investors, mortgage providers, media practitioners, property consultants and brokers at Fine and Country West Africa’s investors series, agreed that the outlook was bright and promising for real estate, hinging their prediction on improved economic climate. According to them, the economy has started looking up with pockets of opportunities emerging in the residential segment of the market.

They observed that low to middle income market remained strong all through the recession period while the upper market struggled. “But developers are adopting creative ways of dealing with the persisting challenge with a view to stimulating demand and sustaining their business,” they said.

Setting the pace, Sales Consultant, Fine and Country in Lagos, Mr. David Mba, said that he saw a more vibrant residential market coming as a result of an improved economy in 2018, adding that what were considered challenges in the past have become opportunities. According to him, developers in their bid to share risk and also raise more capital were going into joint ventures, citing Brains and Hammers Limited’s example.

“Only recently, Brains and Hammers Limited, one of Nigeria’s leading real estate and infrastructure development companies, entered into a joint venture agreement with Lagos State Government,” he said. This move, he explained, is believed to be the company’s response to pressing demands from its clients who wanted to acquire property in Lagos.

He said: “The move will see the company developing 750 housing units, comprising 132-tower units and 618 units that will be part of the Jubilee Estate development in Iganmu area of Lagos.

“The Phase 1 of the project comprises 129 units made up of 12 units of 2-bedrooms, 24 units of 4-bedrooms terrace and 93 other units. There are also twin towers made up of 132 units, comprising 60 units of one bedroom, 24 units of two bedroom, and 24 units of 3-bedroom maisonette.”

Other market trends, Mba said, included increase in demand for good value three or four bedroom apartments in Ikoyi precincts, selling within the range of N120 million to N150 million; increase in demand for houses including terraces, semi and fully detached units. Publisher/CEO, BusinessDay, Frank Aigbogun, is of the view that improvement in the economy means increased business activities that will in turn trigger more demand for real estate products such as commercial office, retail and residential buildings.

Fine & Country’s CEO/Vice Chair, Udo Okonjo, stated that the sector’s positive outlook would come with opportunities for only investors who are ready to understand that the market had changed.

From market survey, she stated that there would be opportunities across various segments of the real estate’s market including residential, commercial office and retail. “Lifestyle communities are the new face of residential real estate.

These communities have the advantages of economies of scale and security,” the Fine and Country’s CEO said. She hinted that opportunity currently existed in millennial and student housing, adding that many investors were tapping into these areas.

Dean, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, University of Lagos, Professor Timothy Nubi, confirmed that many investors had already taken position around the university campus and were delivering one-bedroom self-contained apartments for N500,000 per annum.

In a bid to maximise the value of their property, a recent Northcourt Real Estate report 2018 outlook, noted that land owners looked more favourable to joint ventures with developers.

This newspaper also discovered that many developers and investors have been taking advantage of the ongoing construction of Dangote Refinery in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos to acquire more lands in the axis for housing estate development.

Last line

As the business investment climate gets betters, necessary actions must be taken by the government to improve ease of doing business in the country.

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