Shareholders of Sterling Bank Plc on Thursday applauded the board and management of the bank for the transformation that has ensured its return to dividend payment.
The shareholders gave the commendation at bank’s 56th Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Lagos to consider the 2017 accounts of the bank.
The shareholders approved the payment of N575. 81 million dividends recommended by the board for the financial year ended Dec. 31, 2017.
Dr Farouk Umar, President of Association for the Advancement of the Rights of Nigerian Shareholders, commended the board and management for the good performance and the return to dividend payment after one year.
Umar lauded the board for ensuring that shareholders were paid dividend in spite of the challenging operating environment.
He urged the bank to sustain the dividend payment and ensure enhanced performance in all economic indices in the years ahead.
Umar also commended the bank’s succession plan for appointing an insider, Mr Abubakar Suleiman, as the new Managing Director after the retirement of Mr Yemi Adeola.
Mr Matthew Akinlade, President, Nigerian Shareholders Solidarity Association, applauded the bank for putting up an encouraging performance during the period under review.
Akinlade urged the new managing director to sustain the trend for higher dividend in the years ahead.
He said the bank should work harder to reduce its non-performing loan (NPL) presently at 6.2 percent to within the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) threshold of five per cent.
Mr Boniface Okezie, National Coordinator, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, said the shareholders were happy with the bank’s return to dividend payment.
“We need to celebrate the dividend declared by the company considering what it has gone through in the past, coupled with challenging environment and over regulated industry,” Okezie said.
Responding, Suleiman assured the shareholders that the bank would continue to leverage on technology and available opportunities in the industry to improve its performance.
Suleiman said the bank’s plan to raise Tier 2 capital was still ongoing to boost liquidity and improve capital adequacy ratio.
“The bank has approval of shareholders to raise Tier 2 capital to strengthen the capital of the bank and this is work in progress. We will report back to the shareholders when concluded,” he said.
On loan recovery, Suleiman said the bank would remain committed to recovery to reduce the NPL through various initiatives and strategies.
He said the bank had a strong recovery team internally and had also outsourced recovery to agents.
Mr Asue Ighodalo, the bank’s Chairman, told the shareholders that 2017 was a very challenging year not only for the bank but the whole industry.
Ighodalo explained that the dividend recommended was due to the additional capital required to finance the bank’s growth ambition and to fund its proposed holding company.
According to him, this would enable the bank retain a substantial amount of profit generated to strengthen available capital in the best interest of shareholders.
The chairman assured that the bank would perform better in the current financial year.
He said the bank’s first quarter earnings had shown that 2018 would be better as the economy improves.
The bank posted gross earnings of N113.5 billion for the financial year ended Dec. 31, 2017 in contrast with N111. 4 billion achieved in the comparative period of 2016, indicating an increase of 9.8 per cent.
The bank said the performance was driven by growth in both interest and non-interest income by 11.3 per cent and 87.8 per cent respectively.
Its net operating income rose by 7.9 per cent, while cost-to-income ratio improved by 260 basis points to 71.5 per cent.
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