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Heritage Bank Plc, Nigeria’s Most Innovative Banking Services Provider, has taken its campaign for concerted efforts for the growth of agribusiness and commerce in Nigeria to another level as it wants the bilateral agreement signed by Lagos and Kano States to provide for a Commodity Exchange.
The two states signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on yesterday at the Lagos-Kano Economic and Investment Summit held at the Jubilee Chalets, Epe, Lagos. The goal of the pact was to ensure the collaboration between the two states boost commerce and agribusiness and consequently increase the revenue generation by the states.
Speaking at the event during the plenary session on: Growth & Investment Opportunities in Agribusiness – Value Chain Approach, Olugbenga Awe, Group Head, Agric Financing, Heritage Bank, said there was an urgent need for the establishment of a Commodity Exchange; stating that it would provide the platform necessary for the success of the MoU signed by the states.
Awe said if the Exchange was established, it would make future contracts between traders and speculators in both states and others more possible and thereby enhance agribusiness in the country generally. Specifically, he stated that the establishment of a Commodity Exchange would help to put the activities of grain farmers and others in Dawanau market, Kano; and others in spotlight.
According to him, the volume of agribusiness and commerce going on daily in Dawanau market, which is the hub of grains and seeds trading across the world, needs to be complemented by appropriate policies.
Based on this, Awe advised the two states to ensure that the MoU they signed captures the establishment of a Commodity Exchange. Doing that, he stated, would make traceability possible for every produce traded on the floor of the exchange unlike now when grains sourced in Kano or Lagos could be sold and consumed in other part of the country without knowing its source.
Today, goods sourced at Dawanau are, daily, transported to Togo, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Ghana Central African Republic, South Africa, Libya and other African countries. Again, traders from Burma, Dubai, India, China, Britain, America, Saudi and other countries patronize the grains/seeds market for items like Moringa seed and leaf, Sesame seed, Hibiscus flower (Sobo) and other items such as Soya beans, Beans, Cassava, Millet, and Guinea corn without any credit given to their farmers and Nigeria.
Awe therefore said the Commodity Exchange would help to address issues like that, adding that it would also encourage farmers to put in more efforts in planting more grains. 
Similarly, Dr. Sani Hussaini Sagagi, Deputy Country Director, Sasakwa Africa Association, Nigeria; said any country that wants to progress must take cognizance of its population structure when formulating policies.
According to him, the Africa’s population would increase to 1.4 billion in the next 12 years, while it would be 2.5 billion in 2030. Sagagi warned that over 50% of that would be majorly young men and women who would choose to live in urban areas with the motive of getting white collar jobs. He disclosed that there would be food shortage and climate change, which would cause 50% yield reduction in agribusiness.
Sagagi therefore said the two state governments must, as from today, begin to put the mechanism in place to address the social menace that would arise because of the surge in populace. He expressed optimism that the agreement signed by Lagos and Kano States would help a lot in finding solace to the possible challenges that would arise in the future.
Also present at the occasion was Richard Sandall, Senior Private Sector Development Adviser, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). Sandall identified financing, security and land as some of the challenges militating against smooth agribusiness in Africa. However, he said the DFID was established with the aim of supporting Africa to address issues like that.
Sandall stated: “Apart from working on alleviating the constraints, DFID also focuses on assisting in formulating appropriate policies that would nip those challenges in the bud”.

BUSINESS

Lasaco Shares Not Suspended

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Our attention has been drawn to an online publication on the 22nd of February 2021 that Lasaco Assurance Plc. (“LASACO”/”the Company”) shares had been placed on indefinite suspension. This is not correct as the shares of the Company were never placed on indefinite suspension by The Nigerian Stock Exchange (“NSE”/”the Exchange”).

The shareholders of Lasaco Assurance had at the Annual General Meeting of 8th October 2019, approved the reconstruction of 7,334,343,421 Ordinary shares of 50k each in the share capital of the Company in the ratio of ONE (1) new ordinary share for every FOUR (4) Ordinary shares previously held by the shareholders into 1,833,585,855 Ordinary shares of 50k each.

Lasaco Assurance, through its Financial Advisers and Stockbrokers, filed necessary Applications with the Securities & Exchange Commission (“SEC”/”the Commission”) and The Nigerian Stock Exchange (“NSE”/”the Exchange”) for the reconstruction of the said Issued shares as directed by the shareholders.

Following the approval of SEC with the Issuance of Letter of no Objection to the reconstruction by the Commission and submission of the said letter to the Exchange, suspension from trading in the shares of the Company was placed by the Exchange from Monday 1st February 2021 to Friday, 19th February 2021 to allow the Share Reconstruction exercises to be concluded.

The shares of the Company resumed trading on Monday, 22nd February 2021 following the conclusion of the Share Reconstruction.

It should be noted that Lasaco Assurance is a regulatory compliant institution and had not done anything to warrant an indefinite suspension of its shares at the Exchange as published by your paper.

Management.

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BUSINESS

Access Bank Commences Accelerator Program, To Empower Startups Through Africa Fintech Foundry

Gbemileke Ajayi

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The Africa Fintech Foundry (AFF), an initiative of Access Bank Plc has commenced its accelerator programs.

The initiative is set to empower emerging startups, with mentorship programs, advisory and has committed N10 million in cash to the top three finalists.

The accelerator program which opened its entries last month received 306 registrations and after rigorous assessments were later shortlisted to 30 participants.

These finalists were further screened by the Head of the Africa Fintech Foundry, Mr. Daniel Awe; Group Head, Emerging Businesses, Access Bank, Mrs. Ayodele Olojede; and Vice President, Investments MBO Capital, and Fintech Consultant, Mr. Oshone Ikazobor, in a bid to narrow it down to 10 -15 finalist.

Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Awe said the AFF was committed to empowering startups with resources and ensuring start-ups are equipped to scale their businesses.

He said: “If a start-up has an idea and you throw it into a market of 42 million customers, the acceleration is going to be faster. So, it is using the entire ecosystem of our group to build the future of the country.”

“In the next 10 years, these guys coming here we see them becoming a unicorn worth over $100 million and a season is coming where would see these startups becoming the next drivers of our economy.”

On funding available for the start-ups, he added: “Funding is based on ideas and what would be required to move the idea forward. We have a commitment of about N10 million. After they come into the accelerator program, there are a top-three but the other ones are going to be exposed to investors.

“This initiative would have a direct impact on the economy because it is targeted at the medium scale businesses and these are the businesses that can change economies in terms of reducing employment rate and socioeconomic levels.”

Also speaking at the event, the Head, Retail Product Insight and Capabilities, Access Bank Plc, Mr. Rob Giles said: “We are looking for companies with ideas that can solve real-world problems and were we are different from venture capital firms is we offer an environment where startups can be supported, nurtured, advised and get access to people who are further ahead on their journey like mentors.

“We have seen three companies that can go all the way and our job is to make sure they stay the course and structure their foundations from the very beginning that would allow them to scale.”

Furthermore, speaking to one of the participating startups, the Founder, Farm Delight Ms. Love Uduma, a start-up focused on the agriculture value chain from production to distribution and consumption said this platform is an impactful stream for startups to get support from.

On her expectation, she said: “I am expecting tech support and a good relationship with the tech community. We have the agricultural aspect covered but we need the technical assistance and also funding.”

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BUSINESS

Fidelity Bank Plc Successfully Issued The Largest Ticket Tier II Local Bonds In Nigeria

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Fidelity Bank Plc has successfully issued 10 years N41.21 billion in fixed-rate unsecured subordinated bond at a 8.5 percent coupon rate due in 2031. The bond issuance which was fully subscribed given that total investor interest and commitments in the bonds were N56.6 billion, adds to the impressive portfolio of landmark transactions structured by the bank and underscores its capacity to successfully execute debt capital market transactions.

The transaction is a landmark achievement in the Nigerian domestic debt market for being the largest corporate bonds ever issued by a Nigerian Bank including the deposit money banks and merchant banks etc.

In December, the bank had announced plans to issue fixed income securities with a 10-year tenor to support the growth and development of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Retail Business as well as its technology infrastructure. The bank conducted the debt issuance under its registered N100 billion bond issuance programme.

The bonds are unsecured and subordinated, which will qualify as Tier II Capital in line with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Guidance Notes on Regulatory Capital for commercial banks in Nigeria.

Speaking on the significance and success of the bond issuance, Fidelity Bank Chairman, Mustapha Chike-Obi said that the bond issuance further demonstrates our confidence in Nigeria’s debt market. “It also validates the continued investor confidence in our corporate strategy and aspirations, strong corporate governance structure and solid and stable executive management team with a robust history of superior financial performance and returns”, Obi explained.

In her comments, Fidelity Bank CEO, Mrs. Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe noted that proceeds from the transaction would be utilized to support growth in the issuer’s risk assets in SME and retail business as well as investments in technology & retail infrastructure. This, Onyeali-Ikpe added is in line with the bank’s Tier I aspirations. According to her, our business fundamentals have remained strong despite the challenging economic environment occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic and the attendant recession.

“The successful bond issuance highlights the confidence in the Fidelity brand, as well as our capability to expand our funding sources, and deliver innovative financial services to our esteemed customers”, she added. The issue was assigned a rating of A- by Agusto, and A by Datapro and will be listed on both the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and FMDQ Securities Exchange Limited.

Fidelity Bank is a full-fledged commercial bank operating in Nigeria, with over 5.7 million customers who are serviced across its 250 business offices and various other digital banking channels. The Bank is focused on select niche corporate banking sectors, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and is rapidly implementing a digital-based retail banking strategy which has resulted in annual double-digit growth in savings deposits in at least 7 consecutive years while over 50 percent of its customers are now enrolled on its digital platforms.

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