Access Bank’s after-tax profit from January through March advanced 28.4 per cent to N52.6 billion, boosted by a moderate rise in gross earnings, the unaudited financial statements of Nigeria’s biggest bank by asset showed on Thursday.

Gross earnings lifted to N222.1 billion from N209.8 billion a year earlier.

Net interest income stood at N81.4 billion, more than one-fourth bigger than the figure reported for the same period of last year, even though the income category was capped by impairment charge.

Charges for loan impairment rose by almost half to N12.6 billion, underscoring the forecast of credit rating agency Fitch that the impaired loans of the Nigerian banking industry would accelerate by between 10 to 12 per cent of total credit asset by the end of this year.

Net fee and commission income swelled 33.6 per cent to N30.7 billion, according to the earnings report published by the Nigerian Exchange Limited.

Pre-tax profit climbed to N60 billion, up from N46.3 billion, while profit for the period increased to N52.6 from N41 billion.

Access Bank announced two acquisitions in the last one month including the takeover of the controlling stake worth $60 million in South Africa’s Grobank and the planned purchase of Botswana’s African Banking Corporation.

Its asset valuation is now put at N9.1 trillion for the first quarter of 2021. That compares with the N8.7 trillion of last year.

Herbert Wigwe-led Access Bank wants 30 per cent of its profit to come from outside its home market and has revealed plans to foray into eight markets of huge potential in Africa, from Angola to Morocco.

Shares in Access Bank closed in Lagos on Thursday at N7.35 per unit, trading down 2.04 per cent.

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