Fitch affirms FirstBank’s Stable Outlook on Viability Ratings

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… As The Bank targets expansion with Agency Banking

Fitch, a global leader in credit ratings and research on Monday affirmed the Viability Ratings (VR) for FirstBank of Nigeria Limited at “B” even as the lender ranks above its peers in terms of earnings generation and remains the biggest and the largest bank in Nigeria, with over 500billion in gross earnings – the largest in the industry; amid macroeconomic and industry challenges.

The global rating agency also rated FirstBank’s outlook as stable, thus buttressing the strong outlook on the bank, particularly as its diversified distribution network across African and international geographies make it very resilient to cyclical volatilities in any of its market of operations.

The rating agency explained that the challenging and volatile operating environment in Nigeria and other key rating factors, particularly the banks’ financial profiles, constrain the VRs in the highly speculative ‘b’ range. It however affirmed that despite slower asset growth and higher loan impairment charges, the long term national outlooks of the banks remain stable and expect them to remain profitable in 2016 due to still strong earnings generation and their unchanged respective creditworthiness relative to each other.

Meanwhile, Managing Director and CEO, First Bank of Nigeria Limited and Subsidiaries, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, on Tuesday said FirstBank currently has over 10 million customers, adding that its new management is working towards growing this to over 20 million by 2019 through a phased deployment of agency banking in sync with its financial inclusion initiative.

Describing the FirstBank as a ‘strategically important Bank’ to the Nigerian economy, Adeduntan said the objectives of the new management which assumed office in January 2016, includes to retain the spot as the number one bank in the country and sub-region; and to continue to be fully embedded in the nation’s economy whilst delivering value to all its stakeholders. Going by its recent financial results, Adeduntan said FirstBank ranks above its peers in terms of earnings generation and remains the biggest and the largest bank in Nigeria, with over 500billion in gross earnings – the largest in the industry, adding that its liquidity ratio and capital adequacy ratio are well above regulatory required benchmarks.

Adeduntan concluded by asserting that despite the challenging environment, FirstBank’s fundamentals remain very strong and upside, affirming that an institution can hardly have an outlook beyond that of its operating environment a truism which rating agencies postures attest to “We are optimistic of improved stakeholders’ return as the resilience of our heritage has prepared the Bank for a time like this,”

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