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Access, Africa’s new largest bank opens business today with N6.1tn asset base
…As Diamond fails to last forever in Nigeria
It started with speculations and later went ahead to mature. However, after months of build up ranging from expression of merger interests between Access and Diamond banks, sealing of understanding to merge, compliance to court ruling via extra-ordinary AGMs, regulatory approvals, shares and internal restructurings plus staff reorientations, new Access Bank Plc will begin operations today nationwide.
Otherwise, Access and Diamond banks have officially become one, to be known as Access Bank, and just like United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA)/Standard Trust Bank (STB) merger in 2005, the youngest largest bank in Africa agreed to retain Diamond logo and colours as brand identity with Access Bank as name.
In his remarks at the Extra Ordinary AGM in Lagos, Access Bank chief executive, Mr. Herbert Wigwe assured shareholders of good days ahead as the last chief executive of former Diamond Bank, Mr. Uzoma Dozie was technically economical with words as shareholders approve their hostile share exchange of seven for two in Access Bank after all.
Random checks carried out by Business Hilights Intelligence Unit (BHIU) throughout last week both in Access and Diamond banks showed that server merger is almost completed meaning that customers of both banks can seamlessly walk into any branch and run their transactions as staff of the banks were seen hanging server password chips of both banks together.
In one of the Diamond banks in Lagos, a top security official who pleaded anonymity confided in our undercover investigators that all Diamond Bank security operatives have been trained on the standard operating procedures of Access ahead of switch over today, Monday April 1, 2019.
Industry pundits are upbeat that the merger which came with strong traces of hostile takeover, will shrink the number of players in the nation’s banking space even though the traditional top five banks that control more than 60 percent of assets will remain unchanged but with Access now displacing First Bank and Zenith Bank as clear leader in terms of branch network and total asset base.
Recall that earlier Thursday, one of the global rating agencies, Standard and Poor’s (S&P), announced that it has discontinued its ‘CCC+/C’ long- and short-term issuer credit ratings and its ‘ngBB/ngB’ Nigeria national scale ratings on Diamond Bank.
At the same time, it affirmed the ‘B/B’ long- and short-term issuer credit ratings and ‘ngA/ngA-1’ Nigeria national scale ratings on Access Bank and assigned the bank a stable outlook. According to S&P, the affirmation of its ‘B/B’ ratings on Access Bank was based on its view that short-term acquisition risks were likely to be offset by the bank’s track record and orderly approach to mergers and acquisitions.
S&P averred that “Access Bank has demonstrated its ability to identify and select accretive assets, and it successfully integrated Intercontinental Bank after acquiring it in 2011. We believe the Diamond Bank deal will cement Access Bank’s market leading position in the top-tier of the competitive Nigerian banking sector.
The rating report also revealed that “The combined entity has total assets of about N6.1 trillion, representing almost a 20 per cent total market share. The combined entity boasts the largest franchise by customer base, loans, and customer deposits.”
It would be recalled that the troubles that lead to the hard to mention hostile acquisition had started in Diamond Bank with liquidity ratio crisis since 2016 fueled by loan losses. Part of the stress forced the bank to sell its foreign subsidiaries including the UK branch and in the process of seeking for about N150,000 lifeline from Access Bank, the story changed to merger which has become true life story today.
However, traces of hostile acquisition were observed from the fact that holders of Diamond Bank shares were compelled to trade seven of their shares to Access Bank’s two while holders of Access Bank shares maintained their share values and numbers.