By Omoh Gabriel
OUAGADOUGOU,Â BURKINA FASO â€” Discussions on the merger plans between First Bank Nigeria Plc and Eco Transnational Incorporated (ETI) that will create the strongest pan-African bank in the continent will resume as soon as the present management of First Bank settles down.
This was made known to journalists at the post-AGM press conference of Ecobank in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso last Friday by the Group Managing Director of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), Mr Arnold Ekpe.
Mr. Ekpe said that it is not true that Ecobank was not forthcoming on the arrangement but that the management of First Bank has changed twice in recent times and have to been given time to settle down for discussions to continue.
According to him, there are economics of scale to be derived from the combination of First Bank and Ecobank stating that such combination, if it comes true, will yield a superior value for shareholders of both companies. He said that unlike First Bank which is listed in one Stock Exchange in the region, Ecobank is listed in three of the regionâ€™s stock exchanges which rules and listing requirements are distinct and different from one another.
This has to be taken into consideration especially those who feel that the bank is slow in speaking up on the issue. He said when the two banks finally reach an accord on the merger, it will be disclosed.
Disclosing the group financial results, Mr. Ekpe said that the group posted an all-round strong performance for the year as gross revenues rose more than 60 per cent from $697 million in 2007 to $1.2 billion in 2008. Profit before tax fell from $191 million in 2007 to $162 million in 2008.
This drop was despite the international financial crisis and the drop in the value of the bankâ€™s local currencies relative to the dollar. Profit after tax was $65 million as the bank declared a dividend of $0.2 per share amounting to a total dividend of $17.5 million.
The groupâ€™s asset base grew from $6.6 billion to $8.3 billion. The number of Ecobank branches and offices also increased from 450 to 610 across its vast network, and the group bolstered its steadily growing customer base from 1,202,271 customers in 2007 to 1,841,934 customers in 2008.
He said thatÂ Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) is the parent company of the leading independent regional banking group in Africa. It currently operates in 27 African countries, namely: Benin, Burkina-Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Cote dâ€™lvoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Uganda.
ETI is listed on the stock exchanges in Lagos, Accra and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA)-the BRVM.