CBN stops Otedola from acquiring First bank

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Tuesday gave its own perspective on the raging controversy over who is the highest shareholder in First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) Plc, saying the pioneer institution, was too big to be owned by a single individual.

The latest pronouncement, which seems to align with other regulatory institutions in the country, is coming against the backdrop of disputations between billionaire, Femi Otedola and FBN’s hierarchy on who has the controlling shares of the first commercial bank in West Africa

The Nation quoted Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the apex bank, as telling reporters in Abuja that the 125-year-old bank was too big and strategic for one individual to own outright.

Emefiele, who was speaking at the end of bimonthly Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting in Abuja, described FBN as a domestically important bank in Nigeria, adding that the implication of anything untoward happening to it was that something is wrong with Nigeria’s banking system.

“First Bank is so big that one person cannot own it. With regards to who then holds the highest shares of the bank, the CBN will take SEC’s position as a regulator of the capital market on who is majority shareholder in the bank,” Emefiele said.

The CBN boss added that he was happy that Nigerians are showing interest in the shares of First Bank which has a direct relation to the intervention of the apex bank in First Bank six years ago, adding that when the CBN intervened, FBN’s shares were going for N2 per share but after the intervention, the bank’s shares are now selling for N11.

At the end of the MPC meeting, the committee unanimously voted to retain the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) at 11.5 per cent; retain the MPR at 11.5 per cent; retain the Asymmetric Corridor of +100/-700 basis points around the MPR; retain the CRR at 27.5 per cent, and retain the Liquidity Ratio at 30 per cent.

On Wednesday, National Pension Commission (PenCom), said funds invested by Leadway Pensure Limited in the shares of FBN Holdings Plc belong to Retirement Savings Account holders, and not a third party as FBN Holdings recently claimed, dismissing.

PenCom dismissed the claim, basing its position on the fact that the equity investments in the parent company of First Bank had been made from a pool of contributors’ funds under management.

The pension office made the assertion in a statement issued on Friday, which followed a claim by FBN Holdings in a letter to the Nigerian Exchange Limited, dated October 26 and signed by Company Secretary, Seye Kosoko, that 1.05 per cent Leadway Pensure PFA’s holdings in the holdco had been ascribed to Tunde Hassan-Odukale, chairman FirstBank of Nigeria Limited “due to his influence and having significant control.”

Mr Hassan-Odukale had come to lay claim to a 5.36 per cent interest in the group in what the FBN Holdings hierarchy called “cumulative equity stake” through direct and indirect shareholding days after billionaire Femi Otedola openly declared his holding of 5.07 per cent. The move was queried by the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

Mr Otedola had quietly been amassing shares in the bank, and his move to be declared the biggest individual shareholder in First Bank Holding Company has met with opposition from the bank’s top hierarchy.

“The equity investments in FBN Holdings made by Leadway Pensure Ltd on behalf of the pension funds under its management are in the name of the pension fund and belong to the RSA holders,” the regulator said in a statement Friday. “Therefore, the equity investments in FBN Holdings Plc as stated in (1) above, cannot be appropriated or classified as shareholdings of any related party to the PFA.”