First Bank Holdings, owners of First Bank Nigeria, has denied knowledge of a takeover of the company by Femi Otedola, the billionaire reported as having acquired majority shareholding in the firm.
The company did not deny the possibility of an acquisition; it said the firm had not received a notification of a significant holding by Mr Otedola.
“As a listed company, the shares of FBN Holding Plc are publicly traded, and sale and acquisition of shares is expected in the normal course of business. We operate in a regulated environment, which requires notification of significant shareholding by Shareholders to the company, where shares are held in different vehicles, further to which the company will notify the regulators and the public as appropriate,” a notice by the firm to the NGX exchange on Friday said.
In the 10 days to Friday, FBN Holdings witnessed an unusually massive trading in its shares and the cumulative number of units traded within the period surpassed 2.1 billion. The uptick in trading catapulted its share value by 62.3 per cent from the level it was three weeks ago.
An analyst at Meristem Securities told PREMIUM TIMES the trading boom started with a move by Airtel Africa to acquire minority stake in Airtel Nigeria.
“There have been lots of activities on FBN Holdings shares over the past two or three weeks now,” he said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject.
“Initially it was Airtel. Airtel Africa was trying to acquire minority stake in Airtel Nigeria. Airtel Africa is listed but Airtel Nigeria is not listed. So they are trying to acquire the remaining eight per cent minority stake in Airtel Nigeria.”
FBN Holdings holds a substantial proportion of the eight per cent. A share purchase of this nature is often attractive to sellers as a premium will be added to the fair value that has been agreed to by both parties of the transaction.
“So there are expectations that that will boost the earnings of FBN Holdings. That kind of (spurred) activities on FBNH as a ticker. That’s the connection between FBNH and Airtel,” the source said.
On Friday, the business website, Nairametrics, quoted sources as confirming Mr Otedola had emerged the majority shareholder of FBN Holding after quietly mopping up the shares of the company in the last few weeks, using a special purpose vehicle, indicating the accumulation further drove the FBN Holding trading to a record high.
Shares in FBN Holdings rose 1.24 per cent to N12.25 per unit on Friday following the news.
Representatives of the company did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES inquiries on Friday. Mr Otedola could not be immediately reached.
In its filing to the Lagos-based exchange, company secretary Seye Kosoko said, “The Company is yet to receive any notification from the individual mentioned in the media report, of such acquisitions. FBN Holdings will always notify the appropriate agencies and authorities whenever it receives any notice of significant shareholding by the Shareholders of the Company’s Registrar.”
The First Bank move would mark Mr Otedola’s foray into banking, having sold off his shareholding in Forte Oil Plc in 2019 to consolidate his investment in Geregu Power Plc.
The acquisition, estimated to have taken its stake in FBN Holdings beyond five per cent, will lift Mr Otedola’s shareholding above that of Oba Otudeko and Oye Hassan Odukale, two of the firm’s biggest owners with 1.5 per cent and 1.03 per cent holdings respectively.
Until now, Nigeria’s second richest man, Mike Adenuga, had been making vigorous plans to wrest control of the prime spot in FBN Holdings ownership before now.
Mr Otudeko, the immediate past chairman of FBN Holdings board, was ousted from the organisation’s top hierarchy this May after a conflict of interest and violation of procedure in appointing the chief executive of the group’s commercial banking, First Bank, irked the regulator, the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“There is a requirement that he has to sell off his shares because he is no longer chairman. Of course, someone has to take those shares. So I suspect that that’s what resulted in Otedola becoming the new biggest shareholder,” the source said.