First Bank of Nigeria Plc has recorded growth of 28.8 per cent in gross earnings in the financial year ended 31 December 2009.
FirstBankâ€™s earnings rose to N196.4 billion compared with N152.5 billion recorded in the corresponding nine month period to December 2008. However, the result when compared to the full year ended March 31, 2009, which had 12 months, witnessed a slight drop of 9.9% from N17.6 billion.
The Bankâ€™s performance in a particularly challenging and turbulent year for the economy was roundly applauded by an exceptionally large gathering of shareholders at the Bankâ€™s 41st Annual General Meeting (AGM) held at the Congress Hall, Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja on May 27th 2010.
The Bank declared profit before tax of N11.6 billion, representing an annualized decline of 71.3% from the N53.8 billion made for the 12 months ended 31 March 2009 as the bank managed the impact of deteriorating credit quality and the exceptional audit by the Central Bank, which it passed on all accounts.
Shareholders praised the recently released unaudited results for the first quarter of 2010 as an indicator that the Bank is yet again delivering value for its shareholders. The results indicated profit before tax of N15.4 billion , the highest in the Nigerian financial services sectorÂ and a 62.1% increase on the previous quarter. The bank has repositioned itself for growth and intends to significantly increase market share in 2011 while prioritizing profitability over balance sheet size.
Commenting on the results, Bisi Onasanya, Group Managing Director of FirstBank, said the drop in domestic demand for credit together with the build-up in industry liquidity as a result of the apex bankâ€™s intervention to protect a couple of industry operators was a major challenge in the review period. He reaffirmed that going forward the Bank continues to consolidate the gains of its various cost control and optimization initiatives.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Oba Otudeko said the effect of the various changes both in the local and international economies showed up in the Bankâ€™s reported accounts. Despite this First Bank has continued to lend with total assets rising by 14% in the year to 31 March 2010.Â Today, the Bank has one of the largest and strongest balance sheets of any Sub Saharan African Bank outside South Africa .
â€œAlthough the Bank faced declining yields as the effects of the financial crisis took hold, we enjoyed steady growth in gross earnings, as our average earning assets have grown. We have on this basis implemented major initiatives to ensure improvement in the income side of our cost-to-income equation,â€ he said.
Mr. Otudeko outlined the Bankâ€™s longer-term response to the constraints in the operating environment, which include setting its strategic aims; providing effective leadership to execute its goals; supervising the management of the business; and reporting to shareholders on stewardship. Shareholders were rewarded with a 10 kobo dividend and a scrip offer of one for every eight (8) shares held.