OCEANIC BANK, BANK PHB AND STERLING BANK GET CBN LIFELINE

L-R, Cecilia Ibru, Oceanic; Francis Atuche, BankPHB; Yemi Adeola, Sterling

L-R: Cecilia Ibru, Oceanic; Francis Atuche, BankPHB; Yemi Adeola, Sterling

Nigeria’s version of the global credit crunch might have crystalised into a reality that may not be easily wished away. Reports from sources inside the Central Bank of Nigeria asserted that three banks in Nigeria have been given lifelines to shore up their liquidity standing. These banks according to the source are; Oceanic Bank Plc, Bank PHB and Sterling Bank. With the exception of Sterling Bank that secured a N90billion lifeline, the other two got N100billion funding in what banking industry analysts said is akin to a financial bailout for the banks.

This is coming on the heels of a meeting of chief executives of banks held on Tuesday, 15 October 2008. The high point of that meeting was the decision by the banks’ chief executives to formally request the Federal Government to intervene in the nation’s financial sector to forestall the effect of the ongoing global financial crisis on the system.

The committee of banks chief executives also agreed at the meeting to request the Federal Government to intervene in the nation’s financial market through a package of measures similar to those introduced in developed countries and that the Central Bank (CBN) should continue to support the interbank money market.

Reports indicated that the bankers would have preferred the United States of America and Europe’s option where government directly intervened to inject funds into selected crisis ridden banks and, in some cases, nationalizing the financial institutions that were strategic to the main-stream banking public but whose liquidity profile had become moribund.

Sources inside the Central Bank of Nigeria informed that the CBN Governor rather opted for the fiscal management approach. The CBN, had, before the meeting of the banks chiefs, granted the banking industry a concession through a circular directive of October 2, 2008 to restructure some of their capital market exposures to December 31, 2009. Interpreted, this concession allows banks not to make provision for non performing loans and other facilities that had gone into the nation’s capital market that had taken a dive for the deeps since March, 2008.

“Apparently, the concession was not enough to stave off the simmering threat of illiquidity banks were experiencing.” The CBN source said. “In response to the appeal of the banks chiefs, the CBN offered the option of an expanded discount window operation. The key elements of the expanded discount window operation provided the opportunity for banks that need to assuage their liquidity problems to use short term financial instruments, like overnight standing facility, treasury bills, federal government bonds and non-federal government securities as collateral to secure long term funds from the CBN. You know the CBN conducts liquidity mop up of the money market by selling treasury bills and also sell bonds to financial institutions, normally, treasury bills are due in 30 days while bond are due in period ranging from 90 days to 180 days. Now, to help the liquidity problems in the banking sector, the CBN, with the expanded discount window, allows the banks to present these short term instruments which the CBN will use as collateral to provide funds for them for repayment period of 365 days.” The source explained.

This option does not seem to have been effective, the Nigeria Inter Bank Official Rate, the rate at which banks lend themselves money, have continued to increase, spiking to as high as 21 percent last week. This may not be unconnected to the fact that just a few banks are in the position to lend money to needy banks. Fortune&Class Weekly reported last week that many banks chief executives continued to troop to First Bank Plc, to negotiate and secure funding to keep their operations going.

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FINALLY, OTEDOLA BREAKS MONOPOLY WITH 2MILLION TONNES OF CEMENT

The persistent rise in the price of cement, an essential building material, may be heading for a reverse with the Federal Government approval granted Femi Otedola to import 2million tonnes of cement into the country.

The cement which a source close to the CEO of Zenon Oil and Gas said will soon land in Nigeria, is believed to be one of the Federal Government strategies to in the short run avail the Nigerian market cheap supply of cement.

“Of course, the Federal Government is aware of the fact that hitherto, the supply side of cement is controlled by a close knit community of suppliers who had turned cement supply into an open monopoly.” The source said.

“Though Federal Government had lifted the ban on importation of cement since January as part of the strategies to correct the shortfall in the supply of cement believed to be in the region of 11.5million tones, the efforts of the first batch of companies granted the right to import have not shown yet in the market. I think due to a combination of liquidity crunch in the nation’s financial sector and the global financial crises which have made access to credit a tasking process, most of these players might not have been able to bring in enough supplies of cement into the country. Naturally, the Federal Government had to make overtures to Mr. Otedola, who, they think has enough liquidity to break the strangle hold of the monopoly that cement supplies had turn.” The source revealed.

The source further added that the importation of cement by Otedola is going to be a continued process until the price of cement becomes affordable to the common man.

“This, I think, is going to be the first in the process to crash the price of cement. I am informed that the price of the first importation to be undertaken by Otedola should sell between N600 and N700, the calculation has been done. I think that after this consignment, others would be brought into the country until the price of a bag of cement becomes affordable to the average intending home owner.” The source added.

In response to a question on the impact of wholesale importation of cement to local cement manufacturing capacity, the source reasoned that the importation policy is an interim measure to assuage the difficulties in the building sector.

“I don’t think it is proper to allow Nigerians to wallow in the difficulty of unrealized dreams in real estate because local capacity has to be protected. Nobody is stopping the growth of local manufacturers, I know that government is encouraging that aspect of the sector by also opening up the space to intending manufacturers who are also given adequate incentive, the importation is an interim measure as I had said, to bring down price in the immediate.” The source submitted.